Cut-rate SpaceX poised for first commercial satellite launch
BY IRENE KLOTZ
CAPE CANAVERAL, Florida Mon Nov 25, 2013 11:40am EST
(Reuters) – An unmanned Falcon 9 rocket developed by Space Exploration Technologies, or SpaceX, is poised to enter the commercial satellite market on Monday, a potential game-changer in a global industry worth nearly $190 billion a year.
Following a successful debut test fight on September 29, the privately owned firm’s upgraded Falcon 9 rocket is due to lift off at 5:37 p.m. EST/2237 GMT from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida.
Perched on top of the rocket is a 6,400-pound (2,900 kg) communications satellite owned by Luxembourg-based SES S.A., which currently operates a 54-satellite fleet, the world’s second-largest.
The satellite, known as SES-8 and worth about $100 million, will be positioned to provide television, cable, broadband and other services to customers in India, China, Vietnam and other markets in Asia.
“It’s an extremely important satellite for us,” Martin Halliwell, chief technology officer of SES, told reporters on Sunday in Cocoa Beach, Florida.
“We know that as we go forward into these very significant growth markets that it’s absolutely critical that we have a cost-effective and efficient way to get to orbit. That’s really what SpaceX has brought us,” Halliwell said.
Previous SES satellites were launched primarily aboard Russian Proton and European Ariane rockets, which cost far more than the approximately $55 million the company paid for its ride on SpaceX’s Falcon booster, Halliwell said.
He would not say exactly how much SpaceX undercut the competition, but did say SES got a bit of a discount by agreeing to fly on Falcon 9’s first mission to the high altitudes that communication satellites require.
In addition to the upgraded Falcon 9’s test flight in September, older versions of the rocket previously flew five times successfully, including three missions for NASA to deliver cargo to the International Space Station, which flies about 250 miles above Earth.
- SES-8 Satellite Launch Will Be SpaceX’s Most Challenging To Date (askkuiper.wordpress.com)
- SpaceX to Launch Landmark Commercial Satellite Mission Today: Watch It Live (space.com)