Next successes of Falcon-9 1.2V – deploying two broadcasting satellites, but first stage failed to land on droneship. 2016 seems to be lucky for Elon Musk’s team, but reusable technology is still experiment.
Mission planned for today was commercial launch performed from Space Launch Complex 40 in Cape Canaveral. Contracted payload was two broadcasting geostationary satellites: Eutelsat 117W B to cover with range South America and ABS-2A which will operate over South Asia. Mission was covering launch, deploying satellites to transfer orbit and landing of first stage on droneship “Of Course I Still Love You” which was remaining on Atlantic Ocean.
Both satellites (with Eutelsat 117W B mounted on atop of ABS-2A) which were remaining under payload fairing were switched to internal power already at T-12′. Just eleven minutes before planned for 14:29 GMT launch, at T-11′, first stage of Falcon-9 was already filled with LOX/RP-1 propellant and fueling of the second stage was in progress. Weather was almost perfect with little clouds and delicate wind. At T-9′ valves were opened and LOX started to cool engines to their nominal temperature. After three minutes at T-6′ rocket switched to internal power. At T-4′ strongback tower was retracted. At T-1′ Falcon-9 onboard computers took over control of counting procedure. At T-04″ Falcon-9 started its nine Merlin-1D+ engines. Punctually at 14:29 GMT rocket started to rise over SLC-40. At T+1′ on altitude of 8 km Falcon-9 passed 1 Ma speed. Point of Max Q, when rocket is under maximal dynamic pressure was reached at T+1’20” on altitude of 14 km and with speed at 1815 km/h. First stage cut off its engines at T+2’38” on altitude 65 km of and with speed at8347 km/h; few seconds later first stage separated from second stage which started its Merlin-1D Vacuum engine. First stage after flip maneuver and deployed stabilizing fins on altitude of 97 km at T+3’15”. At T+3’50” payload fairing was jettisoned; first stage started to perform entry burn at T+6’50”. In the same time, second stage reached speed of 1800 km/h and altitude of 170 km. At T+8’30’ first stage already started landing burn and performed touchdown on “Of Course I Still Love You”. Unfortunately due the fact that it was GTO mission and first stage performed only two burns (for entry and landing) speed of first stage was very high. According to Elon Musk Twitter profile, thrust at 1 and 3 landing engines was too low and landing grids were broken during landing. First stage unfortunately was lost and SpaceX failed to reach second mission objective. At T+9’37” second stage stopped its engine and started ballistic flight before second burn which started at T+26′. Engine started to work and Falcon-9 begun its flight from parking orbit to Geostationary Transfer Orbit. At T+26’55” engine of the second stage was turned off. Deployment of Eutelsat 117W B was performed at T+30’50” on altitude of 750 km. At T+35’28” ABS-2A was deployed. Both satellites started own journey to GEO orbit using electrical propulsion.
Both satellites launched today are manufactured by Boeing, one of the world leaders in implementing electric propulsion into construction of commercial satellites. ABS-2A is second (from four contracted) satellites created for Asia Broadcast Satellite on 702SP bus extended with XIPS electrical propulsion thruster. It is modern broadcasting satellite equipped with 48 KU band transponders and powered by two deployable solar arrays. It is planned for orbital life at 15 years mainly thanks to the XIPS, which is ten times more efficient and needs only 5 kg of fuel per year. Satellite weighing 2000 kg will reach its designated orbit after six months due the low speed provided by electric propulsion. Eutelsat 117W B is another 702SP satellite made for Satmex (Eutelsat Americas). It will be collocated with Eutelsat 117W A on 75 ° East slot and will cover Latin and South America to enhanced range of video services offered by Eutelsat. Satellite weighs 1936 kg and is equipped with 48 Ku band transmitters. Just as ABS-2A, satellite will reach its final orbit after six months.