SpaceX and SES agreed to launch SES-10 telecommunication satellite using Falcon 9 reusable rocket later this year. The main stage of rocket from SpaceX has already made several successful landings. This time, however, a previously used rocket booster will be engaged in delivery of a payload into geosynchronous orbit.
The First Stage
The Space Exploration Technologies Corporation, better known as SpaceX, has already made history with its launches and returns to Earth of the first stage boosters for Falcon 9 rockets. The vertical landing, first performed in December 2015, reminded many of the age old movies, but was an important step forward. There were five more such landings, including on the platform in the middle of the ocean.
Now, SpaceX decided to re-use one of this landed first stage boosters for the first time, after its client requested that price for launch be reduced. So far, those boosters were piling up in a hangar in Hawthorne, California.
The listed price for a Falcon 9 launch into Space is $62 million, and the rocket is able to take 8,300 kilograms into geosynchronous orbit. SES SA, one of the world’s leading satellite operators based in Luxembourg, was the company that has given SpaceX its first such a task back in December 2013: SES-8 arrived safely and is operational ever since. The partnership was based on the shared belief that re-usability of rockets would cut costs without endangering launch itself.
“Having been the first commercial satellite operator to launch with SpaceX back in 2013, we are excited to once again be the first customer to launch on SpaceX’s first ever mission using a flight-proven rocket. We believe reusable rockets will open up a new era of spaceflight, and make access to space more efficient in terms of cost and manifest management,” said Martin Halliwell, chief technology officer at SES.
Back then, SES paid less than $60 million for that launch, and SES-9 launch followed in February 2016. SES now expects that discount, again.
The Path to Orbit
SpaceX has delivered then, and now has a new task: to refurbish an already used first stage of the rocket for the launch of the SES-10 telecommunication satellite, weighting 5,000 kilograms.
“This new agreement reached with SpaceX once again illustrates the faith we have in their technical and operational expertise. The due diligence the SpaceX team has demonstrated throughout the design and testing of the SES-10 mission launch vehicle gives us full confidence that SpaceX is capable of launching our first SES satellite dedicated to Latin America into space,” explained Martin Halliwell, chief technology officer at SES.
The company, established in 2002 with main investment and led by Elon Musk, has not declared how much money it can save in the recycling process as opposed to building a brand new booster for launch.
Satellite SES-10, built in Airbus Defence and Space facilities, is based on the Eurostar E3000 platform: it will utilise a chemical system propulsion for initial orbit raising and then an electric plasma propulsion system for manoeuvres when it reaches geosynchronous Earth orbit at altitude of approximately 35,786 kilometres.
It will be positioned at 67° West as a part of Simón Bolivar 2 satellite network, to provide direct-to-home broadcasting, enterprise and mobility services. according to SES. It is equipped with equivalents of 55 transponders with 36 MHz in Ku-band. It will replace SES’ AMC-3 and AMC-4 satellites that cater to the Andean Community (Bolivia, Colombia, Ecuador and Peru).