SpaceX successfully launched its Falcon 9 rocket on Sunday, March 1, at 10:50 pm from Cape Canaveral, Florida. This marks the third Falcon 9 mission to be completed in the span of less than three months.
In 2012, Falcon 9 reached a milestone after delivering the Dragon spacecraft into the correct orbit to visit the International Space Station. SpaceX, as a result, became the very first commercial company to makes its way to the space station. The event was also momentous for another reason – as it was the first time Space X has released two satellites into orbit on a single flight. Presently, SpaceX has had three flights travel to the space station, delivering and returning cargo for NASA.
The Falcon 9, a two-staged rocket, was built for the reliable and safe transport of satellites and the Dragon spacecraft into orbit. It is powered by liquid oxygen and rocket fuel RP-1, and has nine Merlin engines for the first stage, as well as one Merlin engine for the second stage.
Attached to the top of the Falcon 9 are two spacecraft built by Boeing and owned by Paris-based Eutelsat and ABS (Asia Broadcast Satellite). Its mission is to place the very first all-electric communications satellites into orbit, which are made with lightweight, electrically powered engines rather than the usual chemically propelled engines.
According to Eutelsat Chief Executive, Michael Rosen, an advantage of electrical propulsion is that it allows the satellite operator to require less fuel than a satellite making use of a chemical propulsion system. A disadvantage, however, is that it will take much longer for the satellites to reach operational orbits, which are about 22,300 miles above Earth.
Even so, Eutelsat’s new spacecraft, Eutelsat 115 West B, will be part of a 35-member network that will expand the company’s reach into the Americas and will provide new satellite capacity for communication services.
Eutelsat Americas CEO, Patricio Northland said, “The launch of the next-generation Eutelsat 115 West B satellite is a milestone that will position us as a major satellite operator across the continent. It will transform the 114.9 degrees west orbital position that is already a neighborhood of choice for fast-growing high-speed data and mobility markets in North and South America.”
On the other hand, Asia Broadcast Satellite’s ABS 3A will replace ABS 3 and will serve consumers in Europe, Africa, and the Middle East. Eutelsat, ABS, and SpaceX will also be teaming up for the launch of two more Falcon 9s set to liftoff by mid-April.