SpaceX launches to begin SES O3b mPOWER network deployment – Spaceflight Now

Editor’s note: Watch the live Falcon 9 countdown video and lift off from Cape Canaveral with SES’ first of two broadband O3b mPOWER satellites.

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SpaceX is counting down to the launch of a Falcon 9 rocket at 5:48 p.m. EST (2221 GMT) Friday from Cape Canaveral on a mission to boost two high-energy broadband satellites of SES’s O3b mPOWER network toward a unique equatorial orbit on Earth. 5,000 miles high. a land.

Flying east from Florida’s Space Coast, the Falcon 9 rocket will put the first two O3b mPOWER satellites into orbit to join the 20 of SES’s 20 first-generation O3b Internet satellites that launched from 2013 through 2019.

Meteorologists from the US Space Force’s 45th Weather Squadron predict a greater than 90% probability of favorable weather for takeoff, with only a small chance of heavy clouds that could create a lightning threat. The weather team is forecasting good conditions in the Atlantic to drop the first stage of the Falcon 9 booster aboard SpaceX’s unmanned ship “A Shortfall of Gravitas” about 420 miles (670 kilometers) east of Cape Canaveral.

During Friday’s countdown, the Falcon 9 bomber will be filled with 1 million pounds of kerosene fuel and liquid oxygen in the last 35 minutes before liftoff.

After teams verify that technical parameters and weather are all “green” for launch, the nine Merlin 1D main engines on the first-stage booster will flash with the help of an ignition fluid called triethylaluminium/triethylborane, or TEA-TEB. Once the engines go up to full throttle, the hydraulic clamps will open to free the Falcon 9 for its climb into space.

The nine main engines will produce 1.7 million pounds of thrust for about two and a half minutes, propelling Falcon 9 and the O3b mPOWER satellite into the upper atmosphere. Then the booster stage — tail number B1067 in the SpaceX fleet — will be sealed and separated from the Falcon 9 upper stage.

The booster will extend its titanium web fins and propel cold gas to orient itself for a tail-first re-entry into the atmosphere, before re-igniting its engines for a throttle burn and final descent, aiming for a vertical descent to the drone ship’s installation site in the Atlantic Ocean.

The successful landing of the rocket on the drone will mark the completion of the booster’s eighth flight into space. The booster debuted on June 3, 2021, with the launch of the Dragon cargo mission to the International Space Station, and launched two astronauts into space on NASA’s Crew-3 and Crew-4 missions. It also launched the Turksat 5B communications satellite, another space station resupply mission, and a group of Starlink internet satellites. Recently, the booster launched and landed on November 13 on a mission with Eutelsat’s Hotbird 13G broadcast television satellite.

For the O3b mission, the Falcon 9 upper stage will crank its engine three times to send two Boeing widebody satellites into a higher orbit, closer to final operating altitude about 5,000 miles (8,000 kilometers) above the equator.

The first O3b mPOWER satellite will deploy from the rocket 1 hour and 53 minutes into the mission, after separating the second spacecraft two hours after liftoff. The satellites will fire up their solar panels and power xenon-fueled thrusters to maneuver into operational orbit, a process that will take until about April, according to Luxembourg-based SES, which owns the O3b network.

Two SES-owned O3b mPOWER satellites are inside the payload bay of a Falcon 9 rocket for liftoff Friday. Credit: Michael Caine/Spaceflight Now/Coldlife Photography

The two O3b spacecraft, when combined, weigh about 9,000 pounds (4,100 kilograms) in launch configuration, a Boeing official told Spaceflight Now.

The O3b mPOWER satellites will carry high-speed internet services around the world, providing a “fiber-like” connection for users between 50 degrees north and south latitude, according to SES, the operator in Luxembourg that owns the O3b fleet.

SES already has 20 O3b satellites in MEO. They flew into space on Russian Soyuz rockets under a launch services contract with Arianepas.

The new O3b mPOWER satellites will operate in a similar medium-Earth orbit, or MEO, over the equator as the original O3b satellites.

“SES’s O3b mPOWER system is a real game-changer and will change the way people think about connectivity,” said Roy Pinto, SES Chief Technology Officer. “By offering performance above all else, O3b mPOWER will provide connectivity services to government organizations and businesses located in remote areas. In times of natural disasters, when networks fail, O3b mPOWER low-latency services can quickly restore critical communications networks.”

The original O3b satellites, built by Thales Alenia Space nearly a decade ago, had 10 user beams per spacecraft. The new O3b mPOWER satellites, built on the spacecraft’s Boeing 702 platform, have more than 4,000 beams that can be adjusted to focus bandwidth on areas of high demand.

SES has focused on developing broadband satellites for the MEO constellation, which place relay stations closer to Earth than in geostationary orbit about 22,000 miles above the planet. This reduces latency, or lag, in Internet signals compared to geostationary satellites. A few geostationary satellites can provide global coverage, but more satellites are needed at MEO to reach all parts of the world.

But that number is still far less than the hundreds or thousands of Internet satellite companies like SpaceX and OneWeb that launch into low Earth orbit. Satellites flying less than 1,000 miles above Earth reduce latency further than MEO satellites, but more spacecraft are needed for global coverage.

Boeing has been contracted to build 11 O3b mPOWER satellites. More O3b mPOWER payloads are scheduled to be launched on Falcon 9 rockets in 2023.

O3b stands for “3 Billion More” in recognition of the billions of people who do not have access to a reliable internet service.

“SES approached us with a vision of creating global equity, by providing people with high-speed connectivity where it was not economically or physically possible to build fiber infrastructure,” said Jim Chilton, Boeing’s senior vice president of Space and Launches. “We have partnered to create a supercomputer constellation in space to achieve this goal, and we can’t wait to see what SES will do as the first user of the 702X platform.”

Rocket: Falcon 9 (B1067.8)

Payload: O3b mPOWER 1 & 2

Launch site: SLC-40, Cape Canaveral Space Station, Florida

Lunch date: December 16, 2022

launch time: 4:21-5:48 p.m. EST (2121-2248 GMT)

weather forecast: More than 90% chance of good weather

Recovery from boost: Unmanned ship “Lack of Gravitas” in the Atlantic Ocean


target orbit: MEO transfer

Launch timeline:

  • T+00:00: take off
  • T+01:12: Max Air Pressure (Max-Q)
  • T+02:33: Main Engine Cut Off (MECO) First Stage
  • T+02:36: Phase separation
  • T+02:44: Second Stage Engine Ignition (SES 1)
  • T+03:22: Payload discarded
  • T+06:33: first stage entry burner ignition (three engines)
  • T+06:55: First stage entry afterburner cut off
  • T+08:03: Second stage engine cut off (SECO 1)
  • T+08:24: First stage burner ignition (single engine)
  • T+08:47: First stage landing
  • T+27:10: Second stage engine restart (SES 2)
  • T+27:43: Second Stage Engine Cut Off (SECO 2)
  • T+1:49:52: Second stage engine restart (SES 3)
  • T+1:50:18: Second Stage Engine Cutoff (SECO 3)
  • T+1:53:19: First class of the O3b mPOWER spacecraft
  • T+2:00:19: Second class of the O3b mPOWER spacecraft

Mission stats:

  • The 191st launch of the Falcon 9 since 2010
  • The 200th launch of the Falcon family since 2006
  • The eighth launch of the Falcon 9 Booster B1067
  • The 163rd Falcon 9 launch from the Florida Space Coast
  • The 106th Falcon 9 launch from pad 40
  • 161st launch overall from the 40 board
  • Flight 131 of the repurposed Falcon 9 booster
  • SpaceX’s eighth SES launch
  • The launch of the fifty-seventh cycle of the Falcon 9 in 2022
  • SpaceX launch #58 in 2022
  • The 55th orbital launch attempt, launched from Cape Canaveral in 2022

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