Editor’s note: Updated at 1:30 a.m. EST (0530 UTC) on May 24 after scrubbing the first attempted launch of Badr 8.
SpaceX canceled a launch attempt early Wednesday at Cape Canaveral due to inclement weather, and delayed until late Wednesday night the launch of an Airbus communications satellite to Arabsat.
The Falcon 9 has a launch window of about two hours that opens at 11:25 PM EST Wednesday (0325 UTC Thursday), but there is only a 25% chance of favorable weather when the launch window opens.
Thick cloud cover from evening thunderstorms wasn’t evident in time for SpaceX’s Falcon 9 launch Tuesday night until Wednesday morning, delaying launch by 24 hours.
Upon liftoff, the Falcon 9 rocket will head east from Cape Canaveral to transfer the Badr 8 satellite into a geostationary elliptical transfer orbit about a half hour after liftoff. The launch will mark SpaceX’s 36th flight of the year, and its 26th orbital launch attempt so far in 2023 from the Florida Space Coast.
The nearly 10,000-pound (4.5 metric ton) Badr 8 communications satellite is enclosed inside the Falcon 9’s nose cone. Built by Airbus Defense and Space, the Badr 8 satellite will provide C-band and Ku-band communications services to replace the capacity currently provided by the satellite. The 15-year-old Badr 6 is in geostationary orbit.
Badr 8 will move to its location in the same orbital slot as Badr 8, located along the equator at 26 degrees east longitude. The Badr satellites are owned by Arabsat, an Arab consortium of 21 member states headquartered in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia. Badr 8 will provide broadcast television, video relay, and data services across the Middle East, North Africa, Europe, and Central Asia.
Arabsat says its investment in the Badr 8 program is about $300 million, including the spacecraft manufacturing contract with Airbus, the launch agreement with SpaceX, insurance, and ground infrastructure.
Badr 8 is based on Airbus’ Eurostar Neo satellite platform, the company’s newest large space bus. After separating from the Falcon 9 rocket about 37 minutes into the mission, Badr 8 will launch its solar panels and operate a series of post-launch exits under the supervision of Airbus ground controllers in Toulouse, France.
Then, Bader will use 8 low-thrust, high-efficiency plasma jets to maneuver into a circular geostationary orbit more than 22,000 miles (about 36,000 kilometers) above the equator, settling into an orbit that matches the speed of Earth’s rotation, giving the spacecraft a steady view of its coverage area extending from Europe to the Middle East and Central Asia.
The orbital adjustments will take several months, then Badr 8 will complete its in-orbit testing and will be ready to begin operational service to Arabsat later this year. The Badr 8 spacecraft is designed to operate for 15 years.
Besides its purpose as a commercial communications satellite, Badr 8 also hosts an experimental laser communications payload for Airbus. The TELEO demonstration will test a new optical communications technology in a partnership between Airbus, the French space agency CNES and Safran Data Systems.
The TELEO payload will test the technology’s ability to transmit data from a satellite to a ground station using lasers, allowing information to be transmitted at speeds of up to 10 gigabits per second. Airbus and its partners hope to develop the technology for future missions to achieve a bit rate of one terabit per second using optical communications.
“This TELEO tool will also enable very high capacity optical feed-back communications, which are inherently highly robust against jamming, as part of Airbus’ development of a new generation of optical communications technology in space,” Airbus said in a press release.
The Badr 8 launch, if it happens Wednesday night, would cover a jam-packed series of SpaceX missions. This will be SpaceX’s fourth Falcon 9 launch in less than six days, following a Falcon 9 flight with Starlink satellites on May 19 from Cape Canaveral, Saturday’s Falcon 9 launch from California with OneWeb and Iridium payloads, and the launch of Axiom Space’s Axi-2 Pioneer mission. Sunday’s space special from Kennedy Space Center in Florida.
Working from SpaceX’s Launch and Landing Control Center south of Cape Canaveral Space Force Station, engineers will oversee the late-night countdown leading up to the Badr 8 mission’s launch on Wednesday. The Falcon 9 rocket will be filled with one million pounds of kerosene and liquid oxygen fuel in the last 35 minutes before liftoff.
After teams verify that technical parameters and weather are all “green” for launch, the nine Merlin 1D main engines on the first-stage booster will flash with the help of an ignition fluid called triethylaluminium/triethylborane, or TEA-TEB. Once the engines go up to full throttle, the hydraulic clamps will open to free the Falcon 9 for its climb into space.
The nine main engines will produce 1.7 million pounds of thrust over two and a half minutes, propelling Falcon 9 and Fuller 8 into the upper atmosphere. Then the booster stage will close and separate from the Falcon 9 upper stage to begin a controlled descent toward SpaceX’s “just read the instructions” unmanned ship parked in the Atlantic Ocean.
The booster, designated B1062, will extend the fins of the hypersonic titanium grille and use cold-gas nitrogen engines to control its direction, then re-ignite three of its nine main engines for a braking maneuver of approximately 30 seconds during re-entry. The center engine final descent burn will only slow the rocket to land the drone ship about eight and a half minutes into the mission.
A SpaceX rescue ship is also on site in the Atlantic Ocean to recover the payload of the Falcon 9 rocket after the nose cone split its parachute in half at sea. The payload will be jettisoned from the rocket about three and a half minutes into flight, shortly after the Falcon 9’s upper stage engine ignites.
The Falcon 9 rocket will fire the upper stage engine twice to inject the Badr 8 spacecraft into an elliptical hypersynchronous transfer orbit. Badr 8 is expected to separate from the Falcon 9 upper stage at T+ plus 37 minutes, 13 seconds.
rocket: Falcon 9 (B1062.14)
Payload: Badr 8 communications satellite
Launch site: SLC-40, Cape Canaveral Space Station, Florida
Lunch date: May 24/25, 2023
launch window: 11:25 PM – 1:22 AM EST (0325-0522 UTC)
launch window: immediate
weather forecast: 25% chance of acceptable weather
Recovery from boost: Unmanned ship ‘just read the instructions’ in the Atlantic Ocean
AZIMUTH LAUNCH: east
target orbit: Hypersynchronous Transfer Orbit
- T+00:00: take off
- T+01:12: Max Air Pressure (Max-Q)
- T+02:33: Main Engine Cut Off (MECO) First Stage
- T+02:36: Phase separation
- T+02:44: Second stage engine ignition
- T+03:22: Abandoning the peak
- T+06:29: First stage entry burn ignition (three engines)
- T+06:51: First stage entry combustion ends
- T+08:10: Second stage engine cut off (SECO 1)
- T+08:23: First stage burner ignition (single engine)
- T+08:44: First stage landing
- T+29:03: Second stage engine restart
- T+30:02: Second Stage Engine Cut Off (SECO 2)
- T + 37: 13: the separation of Badr 8
- The 227th launch of the Falcon 9 since 2010
- 238th launch of the Falcon family since 2006
- Fourteenth launch of Falcon 9 Booster B1062
- Falcon 9 192 launches from Florida Space Coast
- 126 Falcon 9 launch from platform 40
- No. 181 overall launch from plate 40
- Flight 168 of the repurposed Falcon 9 booster
- SpaceX’s second launch of Arabsat
- The 33rd Falcon 9 launch in 2023
- The 36th launch by SpaceX in 2023
- The 26th launch attempt into orbit from Cape Canaveral in 2023
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