Second launch of the day for SpaceX as SES 18 & 19 head to orbit

Friday, March 17 at 7:38pm E.T. from SLC-40 at Cape Canaveral Space Force Station

There wasn’t a pot of gold at the end of this rainbow, rather two of the latest satellites for SES, the international communications satellite operator. If you follow the trajectory of the rocket to orbit it similarly resembles a rainbow on this St. Patrick’s day. SES 18 & 19 are Northrop Grumman built, and will be released into a sub-synchronous transfer orbit just short of their final positioning at a 22,000 mile high altitude in geostationary orbit.

Both satellites are C-band communication sats owned by SES, a Luxembourg based telecommunications company. SES is currently one of the world’s leading satellite communications providers, with over seventy satellites in two different orbits. These were designed, made, and tested by Northrop Grumman at their facility in Dulles, Virginia. They each have a mass of 3,500 kg, and come equipped with two solar arrays, and an expected fifteen year lifespan. Their main purpose will be to provide North America with digital broadcasting services along with four other satellites in their constellation. These six will work in an effort of clearing the lower portion of the C-band spectrum necessary to deploy 5G services in the U.S.

Photo by: Kyle Montgomery – NHS

The Falcon 9 booster supporting today’s mission is our old friend B1069 which has previously launched on the CRS-24 mission, Eutelsat HOTBIRD 13F, OneWeb 1, and two separate Starlink missions. Today it landed back on the drone ship Just Read the Instructions, which was positioned out in the Atlantic Ocean. This landing occurred roughly eight minutes after lift off, while the second stage continues to propel the payload towards the intended orbit the first stage falls back to Earth. Using three burns to control its descent and location, SpaceX is able to land these sixteen story tall boosters with precision accuracy on either a drone ship, or the Landing Zones back onshore at CCSFS (Cape Canaveral Space Force Station).

While things were underway here on the space coast, SpaceX was just warming up. There was a launch just fourteen minutes prior to the SES 18 & 19 mission from Vandenberg, California. A batch of fifty-two Starlink satellites were sent to low Earth orbit at 4:24 pm P.T. which means this marks the first time the company has had two Falcon 9’s fueled at the same time.