Live coverage of the countdown and launch of a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket from Space Launch Complex 40 at Cape Canaveral Space Force Station, Florida. The Falcon 9 rocket will launch Intelsat’s Galaxy 33 and Galaxy 34 geostationary communications satellites. follow us on Twitter.
A pair of TV broadcast satellites for Intelsat are ready for launch aboard a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket from Cape Canaveral at 7:20 p.m. EDT (2320 GMT), the third launch from the Florida spaceport in three days.
SpaceX has a 67-minute launch window on Thursday night, and the launch weather officer predicts more than a 90% chance of favorable weather conditions for liftoff. The launch window opens minutes after sunset, and with clear skies expected, onlookers could get a dazzling view of Falcon 9 climbing into space at dusk.
Thursday evening’s launch will be the third flight of a Falcon 9 rocket in less than a day and a half, following a Falcon 9 launch at noon EDT (1600 GMT) Wednesday from Pad 39A at Kennedy Space Center carrying a four-person of the crew of the International Space Station. Next, SpaceX launched a Falcon 9 rocket from Vandenberg Space Force Base in California at 7:10 p.m. EDT (4:10 p.m. PDT; 2310 GMT) on Wednesday with 52 Starlink internet satellites, just seven hours after the launch of astronaut from Florida.
Now, a few miles south of Kennedy Space Center, SpaceX personnel are preparing a Falcon 9 rocket to launch from pad 40 on a commercial flight for Intelsat.
SpaceX’s Intelsat mission on Thursday will also be the third space launch from Florida’s Space Coast in three days. A United Launch Alliance Atlas 5 rocket kicked off the series of launches from Cape Canaveral on Tuesday with a commercial satellite delivery mission for SES.
The Galaxy 33 and 34 satellites are embarking on 15-year missions to relay C-band video and television programming for media networks and cable companies across North America. They will replace two aging Intelsat satellites, Galaxy 12 and Galaxy 15, which have been in space since 2003 and 2005.
SpaceX ground crews rolled the Falcon 9 rocket and its commercial satellite payload onto Pad 40 earlier this week, and elevated it vertically into the launch pad at Pad 40 for final checks early Thursday. The 229-foot-tall (70-meter) launcher will be filled with one million pounds of kerosene and liquid oxygen propellants in the final 35 minutes of the countdown.
Once teams have verified that technical and weather parameters are all “green” for launch, the nine Merlin 1D main engines of the first stage thruster will ignite using an ignition fluid called triethylaluminum/ triethylborane, or TEA-TEB. Once the engines reach full throttle, the hydraulic grippers will open to release the Falcon 9 for its ascent into space.
The nine main engines will produce 1.7 million pounds of thrust for about two and a half minutes, propelling the Falcon 9 and Intelsat’s Galaxy 33 and Galaxy 34 communications satellites into the upper atmosphere. Then the booster stage – tail number B1060 in SpaceX’s fleet – will shut down and separate from the Falcon 9 upper stage.
The thruster will extend the titanium grid fins and propel the cold gas thrusters to orient for first atmospheric entry, before reigniting its engines for a brake burn and final landing burn, targeting a vertical descent to the drone ship “A Gravitas Deficit” stationed about 400 miles (about 640 kilometers) east of Cape Canaveral.
A successful landing would mark the completion of the booster’s 14th flight into space, tying another Falcon 9 booster to the lead of SpaceX’s fleet.
SpaceX has already successfully launched a mission with a booster making its 14th spaceflight, but that launch carried a batch of the company’s Starlink internet satellites. The mission for Intelsat Thursday night will be the first time SpaceX has launched a booster with more than 10 flights on a dedicated flight for a customer.
“It’s the same price if you’re first or 14th,” said Jean-Luc Froeliger, senior vice president of space systems at Intelsat.
SpaceX has qualified its Falcon 9 reusable boosters for at least 15 missions, up from the 10-mission target the company said when it launched the Block 5 booster — the latest iteration of the Falcon 9 — in 2018, industry magazine Aviation Week & Space Technology reported in June.
The magazine reported that SpaceX subjected thruster components to vibration testing at four times the fatigue life of what they would experience over 15 flights, giving engineers confidence that the rockets will continue to fly successfully. .
“They’re very impressive,” Froeliger, a longtime satellite industry official, said of SpaceX. “They found a design where their reusable first stage and reusable fairing allows them to launch at a very fast rate, they have two launch complexes here, plus Vandenberg. So yeah, they get a lot of business.
Froeliger said SpaceX’s Falcon 9 launch vehicle is the “industry’s workhorse” after SpaceX pioneered the recovery and reuse of commercial rockets. The company has launched 45 times so far this year, far outpacing all its rivals in launches.
During Thursday’s mission, the Falcon 9 rocket will fire its upper-stage engine twice to inject Galaxy 33 and 34 spacecraft into a “sub-synchronous” elliptical transfer orbit with an apogee, or culmination, below. of the last 22,000 satellites. operating altitude of one mile in geostationary orbit.
The lower-than-normal deployment orbit for a geostationary mission allows the Falcon 9 rocket to lift both satellites on one mission and gives the Falcon 9’s reusable first-stage booster enough spare propellant to return to land on a drone in the Atlantic Ocean.
Galaxy 33 and 34 will separate from the Falcon 9 rocket one by one approximately 33 minutes and 38 minutes into the mission.
“They’re bolted on top of each other and encapsulated inside the fairing,” Froeliger said. “At separation, it’s actually the upper satellite that separates first from the lower satellite. Thus, Galaxy 33 will be separated from the lower satellite by firing a pyrotechnic device to release a clamp band that holds the two satellites together. Once the Galaxy 33 separates, the Galaxy 34 separates from the launcher.
The two satellites have a combined weight of about 16,200 pounds (7,350 kilograms), according to Northrop Grumman, which made the Galaxy 33 and 34.
The spacecraft will use its own hydrazine engines to raise its orbit to a geostationary altitude. The orbit-raising maneuvers will take about 10 to 11 days, Froeliger said.
The two satellites are similar, but not identical. The Galaxy 33 carries a C-band communications payload, as well as Ka-band and Ku-band steerable beams. Galaxy 34 is a dedicated C-band relay satellite for video relay services.
Galaxy 33 will replace the Galaxy 15 communications satellite in an operational position at 133 degrees west longitude. Intelsat lost control of the Galaxy 15 in August after it was likely damaged in a geomagnetic storm, the company said. The Galaxy 15 was already due for replacement before Intelsat lost contact with the spacecraft.
Intelsat plans to deploy the Galaxy 34 satellite to 129 degrees west longitude, where it will replace the Galaxy 12.
The Galaxy 33 and 34 satellites are the first two of seven Intelsat satellites planned to replenish the company’s fleet of C-band TV broadcast satellites, replacing C-band capacity being transitioned to 5G cellular network services with the Federal Communications Commission. The other replacement C-band satellites will be launched on a mix of Falcon 9 and Ariane 5 rockets.
ROCKET: Falcon 9 (B1060.14)
PAYLOAD: Galaxy 33 and 34 communication satellites
LAUNCH SITE: SLC-40, Cape Canaveral Space Force Station, Florida
RELEASE DATE: October 6, 2022
LAUNCH WINDOW: 7:07-8:14 p.m. EDT (2307-0014 GMT)
WEATHER FORECAST: More than 90% chance of acceptable weather conditions
BOOSTER RECOVERY: Droneship “A Shortfall of Gravitas”
LAUNCH AZIMUTH: East
TARGET ORBIT: Sub-synchronous transfer orbit
- T+00:00: Takeoff
- T+01:12: Maximum air pressure (Max-Q)
- T+02:33: First stage main engine shutdown (MECO)
- T+02:37: Floor separation
- T+02:41: Second stage engine ignition
- T+03:25: Fairing jettison
- T+06:27: First stage inlet combustion ignition (three engines)
- T+06:48: end of first stage input burn
- T+08:15: Second stage motor shutdown (SECO 1)
- T+08:18: First stage landing burn ignition (one engine)
- T+08:40: First stage landing
- T+26:19: Second stage motor restart
- T+27:06: Second stage motor shutdown (SECO 2)
- T+32:57: Galaxy Separation 33
- T+38:07: Galaxy Separation 34
- 180th launch of a Falcon 9 rocket since 2010
- 188th launch of the Falcon family of rockets since 2006
- 14th launch of the Falcon 9 B1060 booster
- Launch of the 154th Falcon 9 from the Space Coast of Florida
- Launch of the 99th Falcon 9 from pad 40
- 154th total launch from pad 40
- 121st flight of a repurposed Falcon 9 booster
- 2nd SpaceX launch for Intelsat
- Launch of the 46th Falcon 9 in 2022
- SpaceX’s 46th launch in 2022
- 44th orbital launch attempt based at Cape Canaveral in 2022
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