SpaceX counts down to nighttime launch for Eutelsat – Spaceflight Now

SpaceX counts down to nighttime launch for Eutelsat – Spaceflight Now

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.

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SpaceX is poised to launch a Falcon 9 rocket from Cape Canaveral early Thursday using Eutelsat’s Hotbird 13G television satellite. The launch is scheduled for the end of the night’s launch window at 1:22 a.m. EDT (0522 GMT). The Falcon 9’s first stage booster will target landing on a downrange drone ship in the Atlantic Ocean.

Ground teams rolled the Falcon 9 onto pad 40 at the Cape Canaveral Space Force Station on Wednesday, the day after SpaceX launched a powerful Falcon Heavy rocket from pad 39A, a few miles offshore. The 229-foot-tall (70 meters) Falcon 9 was lifted vertically on pad 40 for the nighttime launch window Wednesday afternoon.

Forecasters from the US Space Force’s 45th Weather Squadron predict a 90% chance of favorable weather for launch, with only a small chance of cumulus clouds posing a threat of lightning.

The Airbus-built Hotbird 13G spacecraft weighing approximately 10,000 pounds (4.5 tons) will broadcast hundreds of television and radio stations across Europe, the Middle East and North Africa. Hotbird 13G is the twin satellite of Hotbird 13F, which was launched on October 15 during a previous SpaceX Falcon 9 mission. The two Hotbirds are the first satellites built on Airbus’ new Eurostar Neo spacecraft design, with upgrades in propulsion, thermal control and electrical systems.

During Thursday morning’s countdown, the Falcon 9 launcher will be filled with a million pounds of kerosene and liquid oxygen in the final 35 minutes before launch.

After teams verify that the technical and weather parameters are all “green” for launch, the nine Merlin 1D main engines on the first stage booster will come to life using an ignition fluid called triethylaluminium/triethylborane, or TEA-TEB. Once the engines are running at full throttle, hydraulic clamps open to release the Falcon 9 for its ascent into space.

The nine main engines will produce 1.7 million pounds of thrust for approximately two and a half minutes, propelling the Falcon 9 and Eutelsat’s Hotbird 13G communications satellite to the upper atmosphere. Then the booster stage – tail number B1067 in SpaceX’s fleet – is closed off and separated from the upper stage of the Falcon 9.

SpaceX’s Falcon 9 rocket on pad 40 at Cape Canaveral, awaiting launch with the Hotbird 13G communications satellite. Credit: Spaceflight Now

The booster will extend titanium grid fins and pulse cold gas thrusters to orient itself for tail-first access back into the atmosphere, before restarting the engines for a brake fire and a final landing fire, aiming for a vertical descent to the drone ship.” Just Read the Instructions” parked about 420 miles (about 675 kilometers) east of Cape Canaveral.

A successful rocket landing on the drone ship marks the completion of the booster’s seventh flight into space. The booster debuted on June 3, 2021 with the launch of a Dragon cargo mission to the International Space Station and launched two astronaut crews 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 most recently a series of Starlink internet satellites on Sept. 18.

For the Hotbird 13G mission, the Falcon 9 rocket will fire the upper stage engine twice to inject the spacecraft into an elliptical geostationary orbit with an apogee, or apogee, more than 30,000 miles (50,000 kilometers) above Earth.

Hotbird 13G will detach from the Falcon 9 rocket approximately 36 minutes after the mission.

After deploying the Falcon 9 launch vehicle to begin its journey to geostationary orbit, Hotbird deploys 13G solar panels and uses PPS5000 plasma orbit-boosting thrusters developed by French company Safran for several months of orbit-elevating maneuvers to orbit a circular geostationary orbit. reaching more than 22,000 miles (almost 36,000 kilometers) above the equator.

The fuel-efficient plasma propulsion system relies on xenon gas and electricity to generate thrust, rather than a conventional liquid rocket fuel like hydrazine. That reduces the weight of the satellite, allowing engineers to launch on a smaller rocket or add additional payloads to support more communications capacity for customers.

But raising the orbit using electric propulsion takes longer than maneuvers that rely on conventional rocket engines.

Hotbird 13G, like its predecessor Hotbird 13F, will run in lock-step with the Earth’s rotation at 13 degrees east longitude.

This map illustrates the ground track of the Falcon 9 rocket, heading east from Cape Canaveral to launch the Hotbird 13G communications satellite into geostationary orbit. The location of the drone ship “Just read the instructions” is labeled here. Credit: Spaceflight Now

By the middle of next year, Hotbird 13G should be ready for commercial service to begin a 15-year mission to broadcast television programs to Eutelsat customers. Thanks to improvements in satellite communications technology, Eutelsat only needs two new Hotbird satellites to replace the three aging Hotbird spacecraft flying at 13 degrees east.

Pascal Homsy, Eutelsat’s Chief Technical Officer, said the Hotbird fleet at 13 degrees east constitutes the highest-capacity satellite broadcasting system covering the regions of Europe, the Middle East and North Africa, providing 1,000 TV channels to more than 160 million houses. Hotbird 13F and 13G will broadcast signals in Ku band frequencies.

“We have approximately 600 pay TV channels, 300 free channels, 450 high-definition TV and 14 ultra-high definition channels broadcasting from this flagship, 13 degrees east,” said Homsy last month ahead of the Hotbird 13F launch. . “We can also provide 500 radio stations and multimedia services.”

The launch of Hotbird 13G marks SpaceX’s 51st mission in 2022 and the second in a series of three Falcon 9 flights for Eutelsat. The Eutelsat 10B communications satellite, designed to provide in-flight internet connectivity to airline passengers, was delivered by boat from Europe to Cape Canaveral last week for a launch on a Falcon 9 rocket later this month.

The Hotbird 13G communications satellite is placed in the shipping container before it leaves the factory in Toulouse, France. Credit: Airbus Defense and Space

ROCKET SHIP: Falcon 9 (B1067.7)

LOAD: Hotbird 13G communication satellite

LAUNCH SITE: SLC-40, Cape Canaveral Space Force Station, Florida

LAUNCH DATE: 2/3 Nov 2022

START WINDOW: 23:26 – 01:22 EDT (0326-0522 GMT)

WEATHER FORECAST: 90% chance of acceptable weather

BOOSTER RECOVERY: “Just read the instructions” drone ship


TARGET JOB: Geostationary Transfer Orbit


  • T+00:00: Launch
  • T+01:12: Maximum aerodynamic pressure (Max-Q)
  • T+02:32: First stage main motor shutdown (MECO)
  • T+02:35: Stage separation
  • T+02:43: Engine ignition of the second stage
  • T+03:23: Cockpit edging
  • T+06:30: First stage entry burn ignition (three engines)
  • T+06:55: Burn in first phase ends
  • T+08:08: Second stage engine shutdown (SECO 1)
  • T+08:22: First stage landing ignition (one engine)
  • T+08:44: Landing first stage
  • T+29:11: Restart of the motor in the second phase
  • T+30:10: Second stage engine shutdown (SECO 2)
  • T+36:11: Hotbird 13G Separation


  • 184th Falcon 9 rocket launch since 2010
  • 193rd launch of the Falcon family of rockets since 2006
  • 7th launch of Falcon 9 booster B1067
  • 157th Falcon 9 Launch from Florida’s Space Coast
  • 102nd Falcon 9 launch from pad 40
  • 157th launch overall from pad 40
  • 125th flight of a repurposed Falcon 9 booster
  • 4th SpaceX launch for Eutelsat
  • 50th Falcon 9 Launch of 2022
  • 51st SpaceX launch in 2022
  • 48th orbital launch attempt from Cape Canaveral in 2022

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Follow Stephen Clark on Twitter: @StephenClark1.

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