Live coverage of the countdown and launch of the SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket from Space Launch Complex 40 at Cape Canaveral Space Station, Florida. Falcon 9 rockets will launch Intelsat’s Galaxy 31 and 32 geostationary satellites. Follow us in Twitter.
SpaceX will launch one of its reusable Falcon 9 rocket launchers next Saturday in a rare expendable mission for Intelsat, an all-purpose propulsion launcher to put a pair of television satellites into orbit. Intelsat says it will pay SpaceX an additional fee for an expendable mission.
The Falcon 9 rocket has a two-hour launch window opening Saturday at 11:06 am EST (1606 GMT) for launch from pad 40 at the Cape Canaveral Space Station, Florida. Forecasters from the US Space Force’s 45th Weather Wing predict a 90% probability of good weather for Saturday’s launch.
The launch was postponed from November 8 due to Hurricane Nicole.
Two Intelsat communications satellites on 229-foot (70-meter) Falcon 9 rockets in geosynchronous orbit are beginning missions that have been waiting more than 18 years to provide radio services in North America. The Galaxy 31 and 32 satellites were built by Maxar and are part of Intelsat’s program to replace older communications satellites as the Federal Communications Commission transitions a segment of the C-band spectrum for use by 5G cellular network services.
The Intelsat Galaxy 33 and 34 satellites were launched on a Falcon 9 rocket Oct. 8, the first two of seven new C-group satellites that are part of the transition program. The company has three more new C-series launch satellites under construction for launch on Falcon 9 and Ariane 5 rockets in the coming months.
9 of SpaceX’s Falcon rockets will lift off from Cape Canaveral and head east over the Atlantic Ocean, transferring to a “super synchronous” orbit to deploy the Galaxy 31 and 32 satellites. An elliptical transfer orbit between a few hundred miles above Earth and up to 37,000 feet (60,000 kilometers) in altitude stands out, according to Jean-Luc Froeliger, senior vice president of space systems at Intelsat.
Galaxy 31 and 32 satellites stack one on top of the other for launch, with Galaxy 32 to deploy from the top position on the rocket first at T+ over 33 minutes, 31 seconds. Five minutes later, Galaxy 31 will separate from Falcon 9’s upper stage.
Intelsat decided to pay SpaceX extra money to lift all of Falcon 9’s capabilities, reducing the amount of fuel the Galaxy 31 and 32 satellites need to fire to achieve their final missions in geostationary orbit. SpaceX typically reserves some of the rocket’s propellant for landing maneuvers, but in this mission all of the rocket’s fuel will be burned during the ascent into space. The first reusable stage, designated B1051, will make its 14th and final flight.
The race is scheduled for March 2, 2019, with the first unpiloted test flight of SpaceX’s Crew Dragon capsule, a precursor to SpaceX’s later astronaut missions. Again in June 2019 when Canada launched the Radarsat Constellation Mission. Later in the career, SiriusXM’s SXM launched 7 radio satellites, and flew 10 missions, carrying SpaceX’s own Starlink Internet satellites.
Recently, the Falcon 9 was launched on a Starlink mission on July 17.
The two satellites are based on the Maxar 1300-series satellite design, and it is the first time two large Maxar-built communications have been launched on the same rocket in a stack configuration. The dual-library satellite weighs about 14,500 pounds, or 6.6 metric tons, fully retracted for launch, according to Froeliger.
The Galaxy 31 and 32 satellites will use their propellants to launch them from an elliptical transfer orbit, launched by a Falcon 9 rocket, into a circular geostationary orbit directly above the equator, consuming fuel that could otherwise be used for the station during their missions.
“SpaceX can’t reuse the first stage, so you have to pay a premium for an expendable launch vehicle,” Froeliger said in a press conference Monday previewing the launch. This is the first time Maxar is launching a stack of two 1300s together. And in order for us to reach a good orbital life, this is more than 15 years, we had expendable Falcon 8, and a premium has to be paid.
“You pay extra when it’s expendable,” Froeliger said in a previous interview with Spaceflight Now.. “From a business perspective, you can even run a course that’s flown multiple times to retire in any way, but you’re still getting back what you’re paying for spending.”
On Saturday morning’s countdown, the Falcon 9 launcher will be filled with millions of pounds of kerosene and liquid oxygen propellant in the final 35 minutes before liftoff.
After the technical teams and weather parameters are all “green” for launch, the nine main engines of the Merlin 1D will flash to life in the first stage of the run with the help of an ignition fluid called triethylaluminum/triethylborane or TEA-TEB. When the engines ramp up to full throttle, the hydraulic latches will open to launch the Falcon 9 into space.
The nine main engines produce 1.7 million pounds of thrust over two and a half minutes, propelling the Falcon 9 and the Intelsat 31 and 32 satellites into the upper atmosphere. The stage then closes and separates from the Falcon 9’s upper stage as it begins its uncontrolled descent into the Atlantic.
The course is not compatible with SpaceX’s recovery hardware, as it requires titanium fins or exposed legs. And SpaceX didn’t deploy one of its drones for the mission.
SpaceX is expected to attempt to recover the Falcon 9 cargo rocket after two halves of the clamshell nose parachute into the sea downrange from Cape Canaveral. The payload fairing detaches from the rocket about three and a half minutes into the flight, shortly after the ignition of the Falcon 9’s upper stage engine.
For the Saturn mission, the Falcon 9 rocket will fire its upper stage twice to launch two Intelsat spacecraft into an elliptical transfer geostationary orbit. The satellites will deploy from the rocket at 33 minutes and 38 minutes after liftoff.
Galaxy 31 and 32 will deploy their solar arrays and begin their maneuvers with their propulsion systems to a circular geostationary orbit more than 22,000 miles (nearly 36,000 kilometers) on the equator.
Intelsat will operate the Galaxy 31 satellite in a slot at 121 degrees west longitude, replacing the Galaxy 23 satellite launched in 2003. Galaxy 32 will replace the Galaxy 17 satellite, in 2007, at 91 degrees west longitude.
The orbital maneuvers required to place satellites 31 and 32 in a circular geostationary orbit will take about two weeks. After in-orbit testing, Froeliger said Galaxy 31 is scheduled to enter commercial service in January, followed by Galaxy 32 in February.
“Our customer base is average, as anyone using TV in the US, there is a high probability that your channel is on one of the two satellites, or on some other satellite galaxy that we have in the US.” Froeliger said. “These satellites replace the older satellites that run from the material, and they replace a little more modern technology, so they will have greater power, allowing the customer to receive smaller antennas and have better performance, especially in bad weather.”
ROCKET: Falcon 9 (B1051.14)
PAYLOAD: Galaxy 31 and 32 communications satellites
Send Site: SLC-40, Cape Canaveral Space Station, Florida
SEND DATE: Nov 12
SEND WINDOWS: 11:06 am – 1:06 pm EST (1606-1806 GMT)
STORMS ARE FORECASTED: 90% probability of favorable weather
RECOVERY BOOSTER: None
SEND AZIMUTH: the east
PARMA ORBITS: Geostationary transfer orbit
- T+00:00: Liftoff
- T+01:12: Maximum aerodynamic pressure (Max-Q)
- T+02:43: First stage main engine interval (MECO)
- T+02:46: Stage separation
- T+02:53: Second stage engine ignition
- T+03:32: Fairing jettison
- T+08:05: Second engine interval (SECO 1)
- T+26:50: Second stage engine restart
- T+28:00: Second stage engine interval (SECO 2)
- T+ 33:31: Galaxy 32 separation
- T+ 38:41: Galaxy 31 separation
- 185th launch of the Falcon 9 rocket since 2010
- 194th launch of the Falcon family of rockets since 2006
- 14th launch of Falcon 9 course B1051
- 158th Falcon 9 launch on Florida’s Space Coast
- 103rd Falcon 9 launch from pad 40
- 158th overall from pad 40
- 126th flight of the Falcon guilty of 9 courses
- 3 SpaceX launch for Intelsat
- 51st Falcon 9 launch of 2022
- 52nd launch by SpaceX in 2022
- The 49th orbital launch attempt is based out of Cape Canaveral in 2022
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