SpaceX thwarts Falcon 9 launch attempt with Eutelsat satellite – Spaceflight Now
Live streaming of the countdown and launch of SpaceX’s Falcon 9 rocket from Space Launch Complex 40 at Space Force Station Cape Canaveral, Florida. The Falcon 9 rocket will launch the Eutelsat 10B broadband communications satellite for aviation and maritime connectivity. Follow us at Twitter.
SpaceX’s oldest active Falcon 9 rocket booster, in service since 2018, is scheduled to make its final flight Tuesday evening to deliver the Eutelsat broadband communications satellite into orbit on a mission to provide Internet services to aircraft and ships via North Atlantic, Europe, Middle East and Africa. The mission will complete a series of four major satellite launches for Eutelsat since early September.
The Eutelsat 10B satellite is scheduled to lift off atop a Falcon 9 rocket at 9:57 p.m. EST Tuesday (02:57 GMT Wednesday) from Pad 40 at the Cape Canaveral Space Force Station in Florida. Eutelsat 10B is aimed at a location in geostationary orbit to broadcast communications signals over a coverage area from the North Atlantic to Asia, using more than 100 spot beams to connect airline and cruise ship passengers, marine crews and other users on the move.
Monday night’s launch attempt was aborted several hours before liftoff to “allow for additional preflight checks,” SpaceX said.
SpaceX will not rebuild the first stage of the 229-foot-tall (70-meter) Falcon 9 rocket. The launch company has an agreement with Eutelsat to devote all of Falcon 9’s liftoff capability to sending the Eutelsat 10B satellite into the highest possible orbit, without redundancy and first stage fuel for landing maneuvers.
There’s only a 20 percent chance of favorable launch weather Tuesday night, according to the official forecast from the U.S. Space Force’s 45th Weather Squadron.
A few miles north of Pad 40, SpaceX is preparing a different Falcon 9 rocket for launch Tuesday from the Kennedy Space Center on a resupply mission to the International Space Station. The weather forecast for that launch, set for 15:54 EST (2054 GMT) Tuesday, is also in doubt with a 30 percent chance of acceptable liftoff conditions.
Eutelsat 10B will deploy from the Falcon 9 rocket’s upper stage about 35 minutes after launch. The rocket will aim to launch the spacecraft into a “super synchronous” transfer orbit with the apogee, or farthest point from Earth, well above Eutelsat 10B’s final operating altitude of 22,000 miles (almost 36,000 kilometers). The target apogee for the Eutelsat 10B mission when the spacecraft is deployed will be over 37,000 miles, or about 60,000 kilometers, according to Pascal Homsi, Eutelsat’s chief technical officer.
Instead of saving some of its fuel for landing on a drone, the Falcon 9’s first-stage booster will burn its nine main engines a few seconds longer than usual, giving the rocket’s upper stage an extra burst of speed. This will allow the Falcon 9’s second engine to place the Eutelsat 10B satellite into a higher orbit than would otherwise be possible.
SpaceX still plans to retrieve the two halves of the Falcon 9 rocket’s payload fairing for refurbishment and reuse.
A spokesman for Thales Alenia Space, the maker of Eutelsat 10B, said placing the satellite in a super-synchronous transfer orbit would shorten the time it takes to reach its final operational geostationary orbit by about 10 days. Based on Thales’ Spacebus Neo satellite platform, Eutelsat 10B will use plasma thrusters for the orbit corrections required for a circular orbit at a geostationary altitude of 22,000 miles above the equator, where it will circle the Earth in sync with the planet’s rotation.
The total launch mass of Eutelsat 10B is about 5.5 metric tons, or roughly 12,000 pounds, a Thales spokesperson told Spaceflight Now on Monday.
The single-use Falcon 9 mission will be the third time this month that SpaceX has jettisoned a Falcon booster, following the intentional ejection of a Falcon Heavy rocket main stage on Nov. 1 and a Falcon 9 booster on a Nov. 12 mission. The Nov. 12 mission lifted two communications satellites for Intelsat, which said it paid a premium for the extra performance from the Falcon 9, which resulted in the booster being ejected into the Atlantic Ocean.
“The reason Eutelsat chose an expendable booster for this mission is because of the mass of the satellite, which requires the full fuel capacity and additional performance of the Falcon 9 rocket and proper insertion into orbit,” Homsi told Spaceflight Now in response to written questions.
Homsy declined to say how much, if any, Eutelsat paid SpaceX for the extra Falcon 9 performance on the Eutelsat 10B mission.
Once in geostationary orbit next year, Eutelsat 10B will aim for an operational position on the equator at 10 degrees east longitude. The satellite will add capacity for internet connectivity services for aircraft and ships across the heavily trafficked North Atlantic corridor between Europe and North America. Eutelsat 10B will also provide similar services in Europe, the Mediterranean basin and the Middle East, according to Eutelsat, the Paris-based owner and operator of the satellites.
Eutelsat 10B carries two Ku-band multibeam high-payloads for aeronautical and maritime Internet services. These two payloads have 116 spot beams capable of handling more than 50 GHz of bandwidth and offer about 35 gigabits per second, Eutelsat said.
The satellite also features two wide-beam C-band and Ku-band payloads to expand services currently provided by the aging Eutelsat 10A satellite, which was launched in 2009.
Eutelsat 10B is scheduled to enter service in the summer of 2023, Homsy said.
The launch of Eutelsat 10B marks Eutelsat’s fourth major communications satellite launched in the past two and a half months, starting with the Eutelsat Konnect VHTS satellite, which was launched in September on an Ariane 5 rocket. Two Hotbird television broadcast satellites joined the Eutelsat fleet after launches from Florida on Falcon 9 rockets in October and earlier this month.
“Quite a challenge for Eutelsat’s engineering teams who rose to the challenge,” Homsi said.
During Tuesday night’s countdown, the Falcon 9 launch vehicle will be filled with a million pounds of kerosene and liquid oxygen in the final 35 minutes before liftoff.
Assuming the teams confirm that all technical and meteorological parameters are “green” for launch, the nine Merlin 1D main engines on the first stage of the booster will come to life using an ignition liquid called triethylaluminum/triethylborane, or TEA-TEB. Once the engines are ramped up to full throttle, the hydraulic clamps 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 more than two and a half minutes, propelling Falcon 9 and Eutelsat 10B into the upper atmosphere. The booster stage will then disengage and separate from the Falcon 9 upper stage to begin an uncontrolled fall into the Atlantic Ocean.
The booster is not equipped with SpaceX recovery hardware such as titanium grids or landing legs. And SpaceX did not deploy one of its unmanned craft for the expendable mission.
SpaceX is expected to attempt to recover the payload fairing of the Falcon 9 rocket after the two halves of the nose cone clamshell parachuted into the sea off Cape Canaveral. The payload fairing will eject from the rocket about three and a half minutes into the flight, shortly after the Falcon 9’s upper stage engine ignites.
The Falcon 9 rocket will fire its upper stage engine twice to inject the Eutelsat 10B spacecraft into an elliptical supersynchronous transfer orbit, after which the satellite will deploy from the rocket. Eutelsat 10B will deploy its solar panels and begin maneuvers with an onboard electric propulsion system to make a circular orbit at a geostationary altitude about 22,000 miles above the equator.
ROCKET: Falcon 9 (B1049.11)
PAYLOAD: Eutelsat 10B communications satellite
LAUNCH SITE: SLC-40, Cape Canaveral Space Force Station, Florida
START DATE: November 22, 2022
NOON: 21:57 EST (0257 GMT)
WEATHER FORECAST: 20% chance of acceptable weather
BOOSTER RECOVERY: None
LAUNCH AZIMUTH: east
TARGET ORBIT: Super Synchronous Transfer Orbit
- T+00:00: Take off
- T+01:16: Maximum aerodynamic pressure (Max-Q)
- T+02:43: First Stage Main Engine Shutdown (MECO)
- T+02:47: Stage split
- T+02:54: Second stage engine ignition
- T+03:36: Fairing jettisoning
- T+08:05: Second Stage Engine Shutdown (SECO 1)
- T+26:18: Second stage engine restart
- T+27:27: Second stage engine shutdown (SECO 2)
- T+35:28: Separation of Eutelsat 10B
- The 186th launch of a Falcon 9 rocket since 2010
- 195th launch of the Falcon rocket family since 2006
- 11th launch of Falcon 9 booster B1049
- The 159th Falcon 9 launch from Florida’s Space Coast
- Falcon 9’s 104th launch from pad 40
- 159th launch overall from pad 40
- 127th flight of a reusable Falcon 9 booster
- SpaceX’s 5th launch for Eutelsat
- 52nd Falcon 9 launch for 2022
- 53rd SpaceX launch in 2022
- 51st orbital launch attempt based from Cape Canaveral in 2022
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