December 16 at 5:48 pm E.T. from SLC-40 at Cape Canaveral Space Force Station
Tonight’s launch marks another major milestone for the company Space Exploration Technologies, or SpaceX. This fifty-eighth mission of the year, another record for annual launches also marks the two hundredth overall launch from the company which started its first attempts back in 2010. Now well established, SpaceX has become the go to of all commercial launch providers for a reliable way to deliver payloads to orbit. Whether it’s a top-secret spy satellite, a regular communications satellite, or even astronauts needing to get to the International Space Station, SpaceX is the name thought of first.
The mission tonight was for the company SES. Founded in 1985 SES became Europe’s first private satellite operator. In the last thirty years and over seventy satellites they combine a vast intelligent network of satellite and ground infrastructure with expertise to manage and deliver high performance video and data solutions to almost anywhere on the planet. Their plan is and has always been simply, to rely on sustainability and reliability to connect more businesses, communities, and government institutions in more places and deliver linear and on demand video content around the clock seamlessly.
It took only one hour and fifty-three minutes into the flight for the first O3b mPOWER satellite to be deployed from the rocket, followed by the second spacecraft just seven minutes later. These satellites will beam high speed internet services around the world, providing “fiber like” connectivity to users between 50 degrees North and South latitudes, according to the Luxembourg based company. These satellites will work with Airplanes, cruise ships, energy companies, research institutions, and remote communities across their network. With already twenty O3b satellites in Medium Earth Orbit these two will operate in a similar orbit over the equator. O3b stands for “Other 3 billion” in recognition of the billions of people without access to reliable internet services. The mPOWER system, according to the SES chief technology officer, “is a true gamechanger and will transform the way people think about connectivity. Delivering performance above all, the mPOWER systems will offer connectivity services to government organizations and enterprises based in the most remote regions, and can be used in times of natural disaster, when networks are disrupted to quickly restore critical communications.
Focusing on developing broadband satellites for MEO (Medium Earth Orbit) constellations, which puts the relay stations closer to Earth than in a geostationary orbit they reduce latency, or lag, in internet signals compared to those higher geostationary orbiting satellites. In turn though it does take more MEO satellites to reach around the world, where it would only take three geostationary sats. This is still far less than the number of hundreds or thousands of satellites companies like SpaceX, and OneWeb are putting up. Those companies may have even lower latency but need many more spacecraft in orbit in order to reach global coverage.