SES 10 telecom satellite fueled and readied for launch on reused rocket
Launch preparations for the SES 10 communications satellite, the first spacecraft to ride a reused Falcon 9 booster to space, are on track for a late March blastoff from Florida, officials said.
The satellite, designed to broadcast video and television services across Latin America, was delivered to Cape Canaveral in January from its factory at Airbus Defense and Space in Toulouse, France.
Since its arrival in Florida, SES 10 has been prepped for liftoff inside a SpaceX clean room a few miles from launch pad 39A, where the mission will blast off aboard a Falcon 9 rocket. Filling of the spacecraft with its supply of hydrazine fuel and nitrogen tetroxide oxidizer was completed Thursday, soon after SpaceXs last flight took off from pad 39A.
Officials said the SES 10 satellite was scheduled to be enclosed this weekend inside the two halves of the Falcon 9s nose cone, a composite fairing measuring 43 feet (13.1 meters) tall and 17 feet (5.2 meters) wide. The fairing protects the SES 10 spacecraft during final launch processing and the initial few minutes of flight through the dense lower atmosphere, then is shed once the rocket reaches space.
The rocket is also ready for final preflight tests after its delivery to Florida from SpaceXs test site in McGregor, Texas. The 15-story booster was cleaned, refurbished and test-fired at the Texas test facility after landing on a barge in the Atlantic Ocean following a space station cargo ship launch on April 8, 2016.
SpaceX president and chief operating officer Gwynne Shotwell said March 8 that the booster took around four months to refurbish after its first flight last April. SpaceX hopes to reduce that turnaround time to two months soon, and eventually to less than a day.
The SES 10 flight will be the first of six previously-flown Falcon rocket boosters SpaceX intends to re-fly this year, Shotwell said.
Two of the boosters reportedly might launch later this year on the first demo flight of SpaceXs Falcon Heavy rocket,
which uses three Falcon rocket cores firing in unison to propel heavy payloads into orbit.
SES, a Luxembourg-based international telecom satellite operator, announced its agreement with SpaceX in August 2016 to send the SES 10 satellite to orbit on a Falcon 9 rocket with a reused first stage. The second stage and fairing are manufactured new.
While SpaceX and SES did not disclose terms of their contract for the SES 10 launch, Shotwell said last year the launch provider was offering a 10 percent discount for customers willing to fly their payloads on reused boosters.
That discount should become steeper on future flights, according to SpaceX officials. The company lists a regular commercial Falcon 9 flight at $62 million.