Private launch of geostationary satellite a ‘game-changer’

NASA no longer has a monopoly on US geosynchronous orbit launches

spacex-falcon-9-rocket-launches-ses-8[1]

A SpaceX Falcon 9 v1.1 rocket launches the SES-8 commercial communications satellite into orbit from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida on Dec. 3, 2013. The mission is SpaceX’s first commercial satellite launch into a geostationary transfer orbit

More pictures follow. From Space.com:

The private spaceflight company SpaceX launched a critical commercial satellite mission from Florida Tuesday after two delays due to technical glitches.

An upgraded SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket launched the huge SES-8 communications satellite into orbit from a pad at the Cape Canaveral Air Force Station at 5:41 p.m. EST (2241 GMT). The mission marks SpaceX’s first Florida launch of its upgraded Falcon 9 rocket, its first major communications satellite launch and its first flight to a high geostationary transfer orbit needed for commercial satellites.

Tuesday’s launch was SpaceX’s third attempt to launch the SES-8 spacecraft for satellite communications provider SES World Skies. SpaceX aborted the two earlier launch attempts last week, first on Nov. 25 and again on Nov. 28, due to technical glitches. [Mission Photos: SpaceX Falcon 9 Rocket Launching Landmark Satellite Flight]

Sending the 6,918-lb. SES-8 satellite into its intended orbit, which ranges from 183 miles above Earth at its nearest point and 49,709 miles at its highest point, marks the company’s entry into the commercial satellite market. The SES-8 satellite is a hybrid Ku-and Ka-band spacecraft built to provide high-definition telecommunications services to customers across the South Asia and Pacific region.

“The entry of SpaceX into the commercial market is a game-changer,” SES chief technology officer Martin Halliwell told reporters in Nov. 24 teleconference before SpaceX’s first launch attempt. “It’s going to really shake the industry to its roots.”

more: http://shar.es/DkOCK

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38 thoughts on “Private launch of geostationary satellite a ‘game-changer’

  1. “NASA no longer has a monopoly on US geosynchronous orbit launches”

    They never did, or at least not for decades. ULA handles commercial, military, and NASA launches. And prior to their joint venture both Boeing and LockMart had private satellite launching businesses.

    But I am happy for SpaceX’s success. Unlike Tesla, SpaceX gets credit for showing how much more efficient private enterprise is to government behemoths.

  2. This really is a great step from an historic perspective but the real opportunity is the “Grasshopper” project building a missile that returns to earth and makes a perfect landing on the launch pad from which it took off earlier.

    I really love to see the innovation in the hands of private industry.
    Space X will revolutionize the Space Industry and do what NASA should have done a long time ago at a much lower price.
    Hopefully the company and it’s customers will survive the upcoming economic crash and the deep depression that will follow.

  3. So, is this supposed to be geostationary, or geosynchronous?

    The article is not clear, and the writer seems not to understand the difference.

  4. @GlynnMhor

    Geostationary and geosynchronous are essentially the same thing. The target orbit for the launch was a supersynchronus transfer orbit, the satellite will use it’s on-board propulsion for finalizing it’s orbit in geostationary orbit (typical for satellite launches).

  5. which ranges from 183 miles above Earth at its nearest point and 49,709 miles at its highest point

    However once the orbit is finalized, it will be 22,236 miles or 35,786 km above the equator so it stays above a certain point on Earth all the time.

  6. When the SpaceX Falcon Heavy is ready, we can go back to the Moon. A manned trip to Mars is simply suicide until we learn how to survive outside our magnetosphere. The Moon is a good place to learn. We can develop shielding and other technology to protect our astronauts from radiation. UNH has developed a radiation detection system that should be valuable to assess radiation hazards for astronauts working in space and on the Moon. http://www.unh.edu/news/releases/2013/11/ds18lunar.cfm

    A permanent Lunar base would make a good staging area for a trip to Mars when we are finally ready to go. Russia is planning to go to the Moon and then Mars (http://digitaljournal.com/article/321126). They have been working on that plan for at least 10 years.

  7. Game changer? Not really – just more of yer basic “missile and capsule” technology, same as we’ve had since the 1950’s. Still throwing away the entire vehicle, still requires months, if not years of preparation, bazillions of dollars etc. etc. Just another player in the launch market, trying to take business from the others. I wish Musk had put his money into something really radical and not just more of the same. For a true game changer, have a look at Reaction Engines “SKYLON” and its SABRE engine.

    http://www.reactionengines.co.uk/

    Build that and you have a game changer – in fact, the launcher market as we know it would pretty much disappear. Forget all these little suborbital things, they’re just dead-end toys for the rich and famous. Not sure that the Grasshopper concept makes a lot of sense – you have to haul all that fuel and oxidiser almost to orbit, and then bring it all the way back again – what’s that going to do for the payload mass fraction? Still, makes for good YouTube videos.

    Agree with Hoser – it has to be the Moon first before Mars. If we throw all our resources at going to Mars now, we’d be repeating Apollo but on a grander scale. We have to learn to be able to live permanently in space, and having a body like the Moon right on your doorstep is a piece of miraculously good fortune.

  8. …For a true game changer, have a look at Reaction Engines “SKYLON” and its SABRE engine….

    Unlikely. It’s British. So it will get no support from the US OR Europe. Because of the ‘not-invented-here’ effect.

    Which is a shame, as it is the only vehicle which really might be able to fly into orbit straight from a major airport…

  9. Adrian, I think you should probably read up on what SpaceX are actually doing before you mouth off like that – especially on the matter of cost and lead-time.

    Skylon is a great concept. It can stand just fine on its merits without resorting to pettiness.

  10. Adrian Mann says:
    December 4, 2013 at 12:23 am
    Game changer? Not really – just more of yer basic “missile and capsule” technology

    The previous launch by Spacex of the Falcon 9v1.1 from Vandenburg tested the method of recovering the first stage. It was carried out over water as for a first attempt it was not expected to be successful. The first relight of the engines succeeded and slowed the decent to below supersonic speed. Unfortunately a spin developed in the craft that was beyond the capacity of the reaction jets to correct. This led to the remaining fuel being spun away from the engine which flamed out from fuel starvation. It was my impression that as this latest mission was to an higher orbit they would not be attempting first stage recovery, but I have not yet seen that confirmed.
    Skylon shows great potential and could prove to be cheaper than Spacex even if they do achieve stage recovery. Contrary to Dodgy Geezer’s comment, Skylon is receiving backing from the European Space Agency. If mankind is ever to set up home off the third rock then competition between launch providers will be essential. Here’s hoping.

  11. Someguy,

    Geostationary is over the same point of the equator all the time, at about 22,000 miles.

    Goesynchronous means that the satellite is at the same spot over the Earth each day. It could be every 12 hours. The Russian communications satellites are often geosynchronous due to the high latitude of that country.

  12. @Adrian Mann
    December 4, 2013 at 12:23 am

    Thanks for the links Adrian, I read about the revolutionary engine technology years ago but somehow didn’t find the time to look for the website.
    Also like your website and your “art work”.

    Great work.

  13. @ Bloke down the pub:
    December 4, 2013 at 3:40 am
    “If mankind is ever to set up home off the third rock then competition between launch providers will be essential. Here’s hoping”.

    I totally agree with the concept of competition in the private sector.
    This is the only way to get things from the ground, preferably with new start ups like Space-X and people like Burt Rutan who still is my icon for ingenious design on shoe string budgets with incredible results.

    Not entirely off topic I stumbled on this incredible “Blast from the Past” video from times when engineers were true magicians and new aircraft with new technologies were invented, prototyped and prepared for series production in only 1/10 of the time within the set budgets, this in contrast to the settled MIC who currently need 10 times the development time and 3 times the budget to build the freaking Joint Strike Fighter which IMO has turned into a flying lemon, “engineered by politics”.
    Enjoy the video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pz6sc0bgWcM

  14. @ Bloke down the pub:
    December 4, 2013 at 3:40 am
    “If mankind is ever to set up home off the third rock then competition between launch providers will be essential. Here’s hoping”.

    NO!!! The cost to launch from Earth to space will be too expensive for developing space at large scales whatever is developed by launch providers, at least for quite a while (several decades), independent of launch technology. The solution to setting up home off Earth depends on developing robust in-space technologies, and using in-situ resources. An example of some features a possible program might be:

    https://drive.google.com/file/d/0B-ZfEkgmBH37OXV5ZTVGZ2p0S28/edit?usp=sharing

    BTW, the effort to use NEO’s as source material is a joke (I can explain more if desired). The moons of Mars, and poles of our Moon are far more practical, with the moons of Mars the best choice.

  15. @Blokedownthepub

    … Contrary to Dodgy Geezer’s comment, Skylon is receiving backing from the European Space Agency….

    Er.. not exactly. Awarding a 1m Euro study to produce a business case is a not-very-polite way of saying “Go away and stop bothering us”. It provides absolutely NO development support at all. This has been the case for a long time now.

    Bond has been pushing this general idea since the 1980s. I’m sure the concept is good, and can work, especially since the redevelopment around 2000. But if it hasn’t happened now it isn’t going to happen, and that will be for political reasons rather than technical ones.

  16. Leonard Weinstein says:
    December 4, 2013 at 5:36 am

    NO!!! The cost to launch from Earth to space will be too expensive for developing space at large scales whatever is developed by launch providers, at least for quite a while (several decades), independent of launch technology. The solution to setting up home off Earth depends on developing robust in-space technologies, and using in-situ resources.

    And what use are ‘robust in-space technologies’ until you can get them up into space?

  17. Dodgy Geezer says:
    December 4, 2013 at 5:47 am

    Point taken, but the Europeans already know that Arianne doesn’t stand a chance against cheaper opposition and as far as I can see Skylon is the dog they can have in the fight.

  18. Mouthing off? Petty? Moi? If I was it’d look a lot different to that! I was questioning the notion that SpaceX launching a satellite with existing technology is a “Game changer” – it isn’t. It’s another player in an existing game, which won’t change to any great degree. Prices might come down over time, but it won’t fundamentally change anything. To do that, a different approach is needed. €1m for a study might be small beer, but £60m from the UK government isn’t. http://www.reactionengines.co.uk/press_release/Press_Release_17July2013_SABRE.pdf
    A UK Conservative government investing in a aerospace project? Perhaps they’ve finally got someone in there with a bit of vision, at last. Support from the US is not a requirement. ESA have already validated the SABRE engine concept, specifically the heat exchanger, and found no technical reasons why it can’t be done. The €1m for the study is to look at how a vehicle like SKYLON can meet Europe’s space access demands – I wish someone would give me that kind of money to go away!
    Britain has a long history of coming up with truly revolutionary concepts, usually doomed by sort-term thinking, leading to them being sold off cheap, scrapped, cancelled or ignored. Bond knows this only too well, having been on the receiving end of it, which is why REL has been set up so that that can’t happen this time.
    I applaud Elon Musk and SpaceX, don’t get me wrong – they’ve accomplished amazing things in a very short amount of time with little more than the NASA coffee budget, but if we truly want to create a space economy and infrastructure, it’ll have to be done a different way.

  19. …Point taken, but the Europeans already know that Arianne doesn’t stand a chance against cheaper opposition and as far as I can see Skylon is the dog they can have in the fight…

    Alas, I have to agree with you there. 1m Euro is exactly the sum that you pay to keep a finger in the pie, while neither contributing to the filling nor helping it cook.

    If I were asked to assume that Skylon were to be developed and to predict the future, I would say:

    1) all development and manufacture will be taken from Bond and shared across the current pork-barrel European companies
    2) prices will rise and timescales extend so that the costs are just competitive with rockets rather than order-of-magnitude below.
    3) The US and Russia will refuse to let it land or take off from any of their facilities until they can develop comparable technology of their own, and will do their best to suppress any commercial demand for its services.

    It would be more effective to sell, or give, the technology to a US company. Much like the jet engine…

  20. [snip - sorry, I'm not going to allow you to take over another thread with your "electric Universe" rants - you are on permanent moderation now, try not to earn a ban - Anthony]

  21. … €1m for a study might be small beer, but £60m from the UK government isn’t….

    Well, it’s less than the Arts Council spent on the rebuild of the Royal Opera House…

    …I wish someone would give me that kind of money to go away!

    Well, ‘Go away but stay alive’ is what I should have said. I don’t know how much it costs to keep Reaction Engines going, and I don’t know how much they are going to get from the UK government, and when. AFAIR, the 60m GBP announcement was a pledge to invest up to 60m over the next 4 years, and I don’t trust this government to follow through on their promises…

  22. Whether Space X revolutionizes the space industry remains to be seen. However, Elon Musk planned a sustainable business model for the space industry. He did the math, committed resources, and met his goals to make Space X a competitor (a very fierce competitor) for launch business. I looked at the Skylon website (as I’m sure Musk has as well). What Space X and many others understand is that these projects must be economically sustainable, not just pretty concepts. After Space X has a viable launch schedule up and going, I would bet they will be an early developer of newer technologies for launch systems. True innovation is the product of economic incentives and brilliant minds. There is a reason Skylon is not being developed right now and it is not some conspiracy by people who are mad that they didn’t invent it.

  23. [snip - sorry, I'm not going to allow you to take over another thread with your "electric Universe" rants - you are on permanent moderation now, try not to earn a ban - Anthony]

  24. [snip - sorry, I'm not going to allow you to take over another thread with your "electric Universe" rants - you are on permanent moderation now, try not to earn a ban - Anthony]

  25. My wife and I watched this launch from our boat at its dock at the Harbortown Marina on the Canaveral Barge Canal (about 5 miles south of the launch site). Terrific sight…..rumbling sound effects, cloudless sky allowing us to see each jettisoned stage, and to watch the rocket — traveling almost directly away from us to the East — power away until they cut the jets and then disappear as it dropped into Earth’s shadow.

    The con trail bright white and bright pink with the low angle Sun.

    Absolutely the best launch I’ve witnessed.

  26. sorry, I’m not going to allow you to take over another thread with your “electric Universe” rants – you are on permanent moderation now, try not to earn a ban – Anthony

    Your too late Ant, after this I’m perma banned WUWT from receiving meemoe comments.
    :p
    Since you’ve now moved up to censoring NASA the APS and Physic Review Letters when they report hard evidence which falsify your religion about electricity only being a consequence of magnetic fields in space, you have cut yourself free of mainstream science and are now in the loony bin along with BigFoot and UFOs.
    I’m off to more open minded forums, science is in a new golden age of electricity and I want to talk about it. I suggest any other EU members left here move on too.

    Oh, and btw you’ve been so starstruck u won’t have wondered why a supposed top brass solar analyst has chosen to bless WUWT and solarham.com forums 24/7. It’s because most of the solar science community can’t stand him and now he’s retired they are rid of him. The old man washed up here looking for a new crowd with weak enough understanding of space science to swallow his stubborn obsession with old, obsolete ideas.
    You’re a perfect match, so best of luck together.

    Don’t worry if the mods snip this I’ll pm you
    byebye
    meems

  27. P.S. Oh and thanks for some funny stuff on the CAGW religion over the years, you were good. Stick to what your good at I suppose.

  28. Don’t forget about Orbital Sciences Corp. They have a 30+ year history of successful launches to orbit and beyond.

    Dan Kurt

  29. “The entry of SpaceX into the commercial market is a game-changer,” SES chief technology officer Martin Halliwell told reporters in Nov. 24 teleconference before SpaceX’s first launch attempt. “It’s going to really shake the industry to its roots.”
    Kinda sounds like a short story i read before:
    “The Man Who Sold The Moon” by R.Heinlein
    This could be the beginning of a ‘modern’ version.
    Thanks for the interesting articles and comments.

  30. re: meemoe_uk says December 4, 2013 at 12:46 pm et al ..

    Been wondering if this bloke could wire up a flashlight bulb and two batteries and get them to work, let alone propound on ‘galactic-scale’ theories …

    PS. MULTIPLE TIMES in MULTIPLE PLACES it’s “you’re” (a contraction for “you are”) not ‘your’ (meaning something or some trait a person posses); I normally skip posts with those errors, thinking the poster is just over 10 (yrs old, that is) …

    .

  31. Dodgy Geezer says:
    December 4, 2013 at 2:10 am

    …For a true game changer, have a look at Reaction Engines “SKYLON” and its SABRE engine….

    Unlikely. It’s British.

    How I wish you were kidding. Unfortunately, given historical precedent, that may be all too accurate.

  32. Evolutionary products can be a game changer just as much as revolutionary ones; they just take longer. Looking at the first automobiles most people would not have called them a “game changer” either. This is just a first step by SpaceX to make space travel more practical and affordable. Give them time – their incremental approach might just yield revolutionary results.

  33. NASA no longer has a monopoly on US geosynchronous orbit launches

    Anthony, this statement is completely incorrect. There is a global stable of launch vehicles, with the lead in the business currently being the Ariane V from Europe. Then there is the Proton, the Soyuz, both from Russia. The U.S. lags far behind in the commercial space business for GEO launches due to the high prices of the ULA Atlas V and the Delta IV. Japan has the H-IIA vehicle for its GEO launches.

    The game change is that the U.S. is competitive again in the GEO Comsat launch business, with prices below that of Europe and Japan while being at least equivalent to the Russians.

    This is a good thing.

    REPLY: Note the key identifier “US geosynchronous orbit launches”. US based launches. – Anthony

  34. …Note the key identifier “US geosynchronous orbit launches”. US based launches. – Anthony….

    Anthony, hate to be a stickler, but NASA has not had a monopoly on U.S. GEO launches since the demise of the Space Shuttle Challenger in January of 1986.

  35. I’m hoping for a Polywell Fusion Engine. Earth to Mars in two weeks. Interestingly enough there was a LOT of technical information coming out of the Polywell project for several years. And then the US Navy closed it off. That can mean one of several things. It doesn’t work. Or it does work and the Navy plans to build a power device (as opposed to an experimental reactor) to power one of its latest all electric aircraft carriers.

    There is enough open source information available so duplication would only take 5 years or less. Tooling up for a rocket engine about 5 years more.

  36. Skylon now has the endorsement of the UK Government in the shape of £60 millions, and some £350 millions from Private interests for building a full working engine within 3 years ; to be followed by a “boilerplate” flying test bed soon afterwards.
    Present development costs are estimated at £10 billions – even if doubled , this would cost less than one quarter of the large white elephant called HS2.
    ESA has only one option- to back it to the hilt without delay or expensive bureaucracy.
    Failing this, the UK can and should go it alone. Possibly UKIP, if any of its members are literate , could sense an opportunity here

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