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 Eutelsat’s Hotbird 13G geostationary communications satellite. follow us on Twitter.
SpaceX launched a Falcon 9 rocket Thursday at 1:22 a.m. EDT (0522 GMT) from Cape Canaveral with Eutelsat’s Hotbird 13G broadcast satellite. The Falcon 9 first stage booster landed on a drone downstream in the Atlantic Ocean.
Ground crews taxied the Falcon 9 to Pad 40 at Space Force Station Cape Canaveral on Wednesday, the day after SpaceX launched a powerful Falcon Heavy rocket from Pad 39A a few miles offshore. The 229-foot-tall (70-meter) Falcon 9 was hoisted vertically onto Pad 40 on Wednesday afternoon ahead of the nighttime launch window.
Forecasters from the US Space Force’s 45th Weather Squadron predicted a 90% chance of favorable weather for liftoff, with only a slim chance of cumulus clouds that could create a lightning threat.
Built by Airbus, the approximately 10,000-pound (4.5 metric ton) Hotbird 13G spacecraft will broadcast hundreds of TV and radio channels across Europe, the Middle East and North Africa. Hotbird 13G is the sister satellite to Hotbird 13F, which launched on October 15 on a previous SpaceX Falcon 9 mission. The two Hotbirds are the first satellites to be built on Airbus’ new Eurostar Neo spacecraft design, incorporating improvements in propulsion, thermal control and electrical systems.
During Thursday morning’s countdown, the Falcon 9 launch vehicle was filled with a million pounds of kerosene and liquid oxygen propellants in the final 35 minutes before liftoff.
Once crews verified that the technical and weather parameters were all “green” for launch, the nine Merlin 1D main engines of the first stage thruster were ignited using an ignition fluid called triethylaluminum/ triethylborane, or TEA-TEB. Once the engines were up to full throttle, the hydraulic grippers opened to release the Falcon 9 for its ascent into space.
The nine main engines produced 1.7 million pounds of thrust for about two and a half minutes, propelling the Falcon 9 and Eutelsat’s Hotbird 13G communications satellite into the upper atmosphere. Then the booster stage – tail number B1067 in SpaceX’s fleet – shut down and separated from the Falcon 9 upper stage.
The thruster extended titanium grid fins and pulse cold gas thrusters to orient itself for a tail-first atmospheric entry, before re-firing its engines for a brake burn and final landing burn , targeting a vertical descent to the “Just Read the Instructions” drone craft parked approximately 420 miles (about 675 kilometers) east of Cape Canaveral.
The rocket’s successful landing on the drone marked the completion of the booster’s seventh flight to space. The booster made its debut on June 3, 2021, with the launch of a Dragon cargo mission to the International Space Station, and launched two crews of astronauts into space on the Crew-3 and Crew-4 missions of The NASA. It also launched the Turksat 5B communications satellite, another space station resupply mission and, most recently, a batch of Starlink internet satellites on September 18.
For the Hotbird 13G mission, the Falcon 9 rocket fired its upper stage engine twice to inject the spacecraft into an elliptical geostationary transfer orbit with an apogee, or high point, over 30,000 miles (50,000 kilometers ) above the Earth.
Hotbird 13G separated from the Falcon 9 rocket approximately 36 minutes into the mission.
After deploying from the Falcon 9 launch vehicle to begin its journey to geostationary orbit, Hotbird 13G will deploy solar arrays and use PPS5000 plasma orbital climb thrusters developed by French company Safran for several months of climb maneuvers. orbiting to reach a circular geostationary orbit more than 22,000 miles (nearly 36,000 kilometers) above the equator.
The fuel-efficient plasma propulsion system relies on xenon gas and electricity to generate thrust, rather than conventional liquid rocket fuel like hydrazine. This reduces the weight of the satellite, allowing engineers to launch on a smaller rocket or add additional payloads to support greater communications capacity for customers.
But getting into orbit using electric propulsion takes longer than maneuvering using conventional rocket engines.
Hotbird 13G, like its predecessor Hotbird 13F, will orbit at the rate of Earth’s rotation at 13 degrees east longitude.
By the middle of next year, Hotbird 13G is expected to be ready to enter commercial service to launch a 15-year TV broadcast mission to Eutelsat customers. Thanks to improvements in satellite communications technology, Eutelsat will only need two new Hotbird satellites to replace the three aging Hotbird spacecraft operating at 13 degrees East.
Pascal Homsy, Chief Technical Officer of Eutelsat, said the Hotbird fleet at 13 degrees East is the highest capacity satellite broadcast system covering the regions of Europe, the Middle East and North Africa, providing 1,000 TV channels to over 160 million homes. Hotbird 13F and 13G will broadcast signals in Ku band frequencies.
“We have something like over 600 pay-TV channels, 300 free-to-air channels, 450 high-definition TV channels and 14 ultra high-definition channels streaming from this flagship position at 13 degrees east,” Homsy said last month before the launch of Hotbird 13F. “We are also able to provide 500 radio stations and multimedia services.”
The Hotbird 13G launch was SpaceX’s 51st mission in 2022 and the second in a series of three Falcon 9 flights this year for Eutelsat. The Eutelsat 10B communications satellite, designed to provide in-flight internet connectivity to airline passengers, was delivered from Europe to Cape Canaveral by ship last week for launch on a Falcon 9 rocket later this month.
ROCKET: Falcon 9 (B1067.7)
PAYLOAD: Hotbird 13G Communications Satellite
LAUNCH SITE: SLC-40, Cape Canaveral Space Force Station, Florida
RELEASE DATE: November 2/3, 2022
LAUNCH WINDOW: 11:26 p.m. – 1:22 a.m. EDT (0326-0522 GMT)
WEATHER FORECAST: 90% chance of acceptable weather conditions
BOOSTER RECOVERY: Drone ship “Just read the instructions”
LAUNCH AZIMUTH: East
TARGET ORBIT: Geostationary transfer orbit
- T+00:00: Takeoff
- T+01:12: Maximum air pressure (Max-Q)
- T+02:32: First stage main engine shutdown (MECO)
- T+02:35: Floor separation
- T+02:43: Second stage engine ignition
- T+03:23: Fairing jettison
- T+06:30: First Stage Inlet Combustion Ignition (Three Engines)
- T+06:55: end of first stage input burn
- T+08:08: Second stage motor shutdown (SECO 1)
- T+08:22: First stage landing burn ignition (one engine)
- T+08:44: First stage landing
- T+29:11: Second stage motor restart
- T+30:10: Second stage motor shutdown (SECO 2)
- T+36:11: Hotbird 13G Separation
- 184th launch of a Falcon 9 rocket since 2010
- 193rd launch of the Falcon family of rockets since 2006
- 7th launch of the Falcon 9 booster B1067
- Launch of the 157th Falcon 9 from the Space Coast of Florida
- Launch of the 102nd Falcon 9 from pad 40
- 157th launch overall from pad 40
- 125th flight of a repurposed Falcon 9 booster
- 4th SpaceX launch for Eutelsat
- Launch of the 50th Falcon 9 in 2022
- 51st launch by SpaceX in 2022
- 48th orbital launch attempt based at Cape Canaveral in 2022
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