Cut-rate SpaceX poised for first commercial satellite launch
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.

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SES-8 Satellite Launch Will Be SpaceX’s Most Challenging To Date
November 25, 2013

A September test launch of SpaceX’s Falcon 9 rocket. Credit: SpaceX

A September test launch of SpaceX’s Falcon 9 rocket. Credit: SpaceX

Lawrence LeBlond for – Your Universe Online

SpaceX is preparing for its next big mission this evening when it will, for the first time, attempt to launch a telecom satellite into orbit. A successful launch could prove the Elon Musk-owned company’s worth as both a private and commercial powerhouse in the space launch game.

The launch window for SpaceX’s Falcon 9 opens today at 5:37 p.m. EST from Cape Canaveral, Florida. The rocket will be carrying a Luxembourg-based SES-8 satellite that will serve television customers in India and parts of Southeast Asia.

The launch of a satellite is not only a first for SpaceX, but will also be its most challenging. The Falcon 9 rocket must show its capabilities in launching the SES-8 satellite into a geostationary transfer orbit more than 22,000 miles over Earth’s equator.

Today’s launch of an upgraded Falcon 9 rocket, known as version 1.1, also comes after a September 29 test launch of the same rocket design in California. While that test was successful, an optional restart of the rocket’s upper stage engine, which will be necessary for the latest mission, failed to activate.

SpaceX later determined that an igniter line froze and believes that added insulation will prevent a repeat of the issue.

“We’ve done everything we can possibly think of to maximize the reliability of this launch,” Musk, CEO and chief designer at SpaceX, told BBC’s Jonathan Amos in an interview

“There’s no stone that hasn’t been turned over at least twice to maximize the probability of success. Being a rocket, there’s still some chance of failure, but whatever happens we can be at peace that we’ve done everything we could think of, and SES’s technical team has looked at it and they concur,” Musk added.

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NASA Commercial Crew Partner SpaceX Achieves Milestone in Safety Review
Nov. 15, 2013

This is an artist concept of SpaceX's Dragon capsule in orbit. (Image Credit: SpaceX)

This is an artist concept of SpaceX’s Dragon capsule in orbit. (Image Credit: SpaceX)

Engineers and safety specialists from NASA and Space Exploration Technologies (SpaceX) met in late October to review the safety of the Dragon spacecraft and Falcon 9 rocket being developed to launch humans into low-Earth orbit later this decade.

The detailed overview of safety practices the company is implementing was a major milestone for SpaceX under a funded Space Act Agreement with NASA’s Commercial Crew Program (CCP).

SpaceX is one of NASA’s commercial partners working to develop a new generation of U.S. spacecraft and rockets capable of transporting humans to and from low-Earth orbit from American soil. NASA intends to use new commercial systems to fly U.S. astronauts to and from the International Space Station within the next four years.

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Are electric aircraft next for Tesla’s Elon Musk?
Chris Woodyard, USA TODAY 8:15 p.m. EST November 12, 2013

Elon Musk, founder of Tesla Motors and SpaceX, in a USA TODAY interview (Photo: Maxine Park USA TODAY)

Elon Musk, founder of Tesla Motors and SpaceX, in a USA TODAY interview
(Photo: Maxine Park USA TODAY)

Having tried to conquer earth with Tesla Motors and the stars with SpaceX, CEO Elon Musk now appears interested in the void in between — commercial aviation.

He says there is “an interesting opportunity” to make a radical change in aviation with an electrically powered vertical takeoff and landing supersonic aircraft. As much as he admires aerospace companies like Boeing and Airbus — he lauds the Boeing 747 as his favorite while dissing the new 787 — Musk questions whether the otherwise staid industry is passing up the opportunity for “radical” change.

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