SpaceX fans have been waiting patiently for the first re-use of a Falcon 9 rocket, and now we learn such a mission is
scheduled for launch in Q4 2016. Communications satellite company SES announced it closed a deal with SpaceX to launch the SES-10 satellite on a "flight-proven" rocket booster. Unofficial information points to a launch as early as October 31, 2016.
SpaceX surprised the world with the first landing of a space rocket's first stage in December 2015. Since that date, SpaceX recovered five more Falcon 9 rockets, both on land and on sea via a drone ship.
Reusability of rockets promises to make space launches significantly cheaper, but it's a feat that's never been attempted before. SpaceX is pioneering the technology as the affordability of space launches is a major issue that needs to be tackled in order to achieve Elon Musk's dream of setting up a Mars colony.
It's unknown how much of a discount SES is getting from SpaceX, nor do we now which rocket will be used for this mission but informed speculation points to the Falcon 9 booster that landed on the Of Course I Still Love You droneship on April 8.
SES (Euronext Paris and Luxembourg Stock Exchange: SESG) and SpaceX announced today they have reached an agreement to launch SES-10 on a flight-proven Falcon 9 orbital rocket booster.
The satellite, which will be in a geostationary orbit and expand SES’s capabilities across Latin America, is scheduled for launch in Q4 2016. SES-10 will be the first-ever satellite to launch on a SpaceX flight-proven rocket booster.
SES-10 will be positioned at 67 degrees West, pursuant to an agreement with the Andean Community (Bolivia, Colombia, Ecuador and Peru), and will be used for the Simón Bolivar 2 satellite network. With a Ku-band payload of 55 36MHz transponder equivalents, of which 27 are incremental, the multi-mission spacecraft is the first SES satellite wholly dedicated to Latin America. It will replace the capacity currently provided by SES’s AMC-3 and AMC-4 satellites at that location, as well as bring additional capacity to Mexico, Central America, South America and the Caribbean. The high-powered, tailored and flexible beams will provide direct-to-home broadcasting, enterprise and mobility services.
“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. “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.”
“Re-launching a rocket that has already delivered spacecraft to orbit is an important milestone on the path to complete and rapid reusability,” said Gwynne Shotwell, President and Chief Operating Officer of SpaceX. “SES has been a strong supporter of SpaceX’s approach to reusability over the years and we’re delighted that the first launch of a flight-proven rocket will carry SES-10.”
SES-10 is being built by Airbus Defence and Space and is based on the Eurostar E3000 platform. The satellite will utilise an electric plasma propulsion system for on-orbit manoeuvres and a chemical system for initial orbit raising and some on-orbit manoeuvres.