SpaceX Falcon 9 Makes Midnight Run For SES

Submitted by Tammy Cook Thu, 06/07/2018 - 15:16

CAPE CANAVERAL - A SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket lifted off from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station early June 4, blazing through balmy Florida night-time skies to deliver a powerful new communications satellite into orbit for Luxembourg-based SES.

The rocket’s nine liquid oxygen- and kerosene-fueled Merlin engines roared to life at 12:45 a.m. EDT, 16 min. into the four-hour launch window to allow time for additional monitoring of potentially threatening anvil clouds.

For its 11th mission of the year, SpaceX configured a hybrid booster comprising a previously flown Falcon 9 Block 4 first stage and an upgraded Block 5 upper stage to deliver the SES-12 satellite into a super-synchronous transfer orbit extending as far as 36,000 mi. above Earth.

No attempt was made to recover the booster, which was the 13th to make a second trip into space; lofting the 11,867-lb. (5,383-kg) spacecraft into its intended orbit required nearly all the rocket’s lift capacity. SpaceX is phasing out the Block 4 boosters in favor of the newly unveiled Block 5, which debuted in May. Block 5 boosters are designed to fly at least 10 times with minimal servicing.

With two firings of the upper stage, including an extra 3-5 sec. on the second burn, SES-12 was expected to pick up enough altitude to prolong its 15-year design life to about 22 years, SES Chief Technology Officer Martin Halliwell said.

Outfitted with an electric propulsion system, SES-12 will need several months to maneuver into its operational geostationary orbit some 22,000 mi. above the equator at 95 deg. East longitude, where it will replace and augment television broadcasting and communications services currently provided by SES’s NSS-6.

SES-12, built by Airbus Defense and Space, will share the orbital slot with SES-8 and expand coverage with six wide beams and 72 high-throughput spot beams for broadband, mobility and government customers across the Asia-Pacific region, the Middle East and Australia.

"If we built this thing years ago we would have actually built two satellites,” Halliwell told reporters before launch. “We had the opportunity with Airbus to bring them into one common bus by using the electric orbit-raising capability.”

SES-12, which joins a fleet of some 70 SES satellites, is expected to enter commercial service in late January or February.

Article Courtesy: Aviation Week Author Irene Klotz June 4/18