Credit By: SpaceNews
In a milestone mission, SpaceX has launched the third pair of O3b mPower satellites for SES, bringing the total to six satellites in orbit. This successful launch positions SES to initiate commercial services in the second quarter of 2024. Despite facing electrical issues that impacted initial capacity, the launch marks a significant step forward in SES’s plan to deploy an advanced satellite constellation for global coverage.
Key Launch Details:
- Date: November 12, 2023
- Launch Vehicle: SpaceX Falcon 9
- Departure Site: Cape Canaveral Space Force Station, Florida
- Orbital Destination: Medium Earth Orbit (MEO)
- Operational Life and Capacity: The O3b mPower satellites are expected to provide substantial broadband capacity for about ten years despite electrical issues.
Deployment and Onboard Propulsion:
The Boeing-built satellites successfully separated from the Falcon 9 rocket, initiating their journey to final positions in MEO. The deployment process included a precise separation sequence, setting the stage for the next phase of their mission. These satellites will utilize all-electric propulsion for several months to reach their designated orbital locations.
Operational Challenges and Adjustments:
SES faced unexpected electrical issues with the initial four O3b mPower satellites in orbit. These challenges prompted adjustments to the overall constellation plan. Boeing, the satellite manufacturer, will now deliver an additional two O3b mPower satellites under an amended contract. Furthermore, fixes for five existing satellites will be implemented, causing a delay in their launches by approximately a year.
Commercial Service Timeline:
Undeterred by the challenges, SES is on track to roll out commercial services covering 96% of the world’s population in the second quarter of 2024. The O3b mPower constellation is designed to offer high-throughput connectivity, with each satellite capable of scaling up to multiple gigabits per second.
Future Launch Plans:
While SES has successfully deployed six O3b mPower satellites, the company must select a launch provider for the two additional satellites under the amended Boeing contract. SES anticipates its risk-sharing arrangement with Boeing will mitigate the need for further investment in this context.
SpaceX’s recent launch of O3b mPower satellites represents a crucial step for SES in overcoming operational challenges and progressing toward deploying an advanced satellite constellation. Despite adjustments to satellite manufacturing and launch schedules, SES remains committed to offering cutting-edge commercial services that leverage the capabilities of the O3b mPower constellation.
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