SpaceX prepares Falcon 9 rocket to launch Egyptian communications satellite – Spaceflight Now

The Nilesat 301 communications satellite undergoes a solar panel deployment test. Credit: Thales Alenia Space

An Egyptian-owned communications satellite is nestled in the nose cone of a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket for launch Wednesday from Cape Canaveral, heading to an orbital position more than 22,000 miles above the equator .

The Nilesat 301 satellite is about to begin a 15-year mission bringing television programs, data services and internet connectivity to Egypt and neighboring regions of the Middle East and Africa.

SpaceX taxied the Falcon 9 rocket with the Nilesat 301 satellite to pad 40 at Cape Canaveral Space Force Station on Tuesday. A hydraulic lifting mechanism raised the vertical 229 feet (70 meters) for final checks leading up to Wednesday’s countdown.

The mission will be SpaceX’s 23rd launch of the year and the first of six Falcon 9 rocket flights scheduled for June.

SpaceX will load one million pounds of densified, supercooled liquid oxygen and kerosene propellants into the Falcon 9 in the final 35 minutes of the countdown on Wednesday. The Falcon 9 will switch to internal power and pressurize its propellant tanks before igniting nine Merlin main engines at T-minus 3 seconds.

After passing an automated health check, the computers will command four holding clamps to open, clearing the way for the Falcon 9 to lift off from pad 40 with 1.7 million pounds of thrust.

The launch time is set for 5:04 p.m. EDT (21:04 GMT) on Wednesday at the opening of a 2 hour and 29 minute window. US Space Force forecasters predict a 60% chance of favorable weather conditions for the launch on Wednesday, with the main concern associated with threatening storm clouds nearby.

Once it leaves the pad, the Falcon 9 will head east from Cape Canaveral over the Atlantic Ocean and exceed the speed of sound in about a minute. The first stage booster will shut down its engines and separate from the Falcon 9 upper stage at T+plus 2 minutes 37 seconds.

The booster stage will traverse space for a few minutes before plunging back into the atmosphere to target a rocket-assisted vertical landing on SpaceX’s drone in the Atlantic nearly nine minutes after liftoff.

The Falcon 9 first stage – tail number B1062 – will fly for the seventh time. It debuted with the launch of a US military GPS satellite on November 5, 2020 and has since launched another GPS payload, Axiom’s Inspiration4 and Ax-1 private astronaut missions, and two satellite-carrying missions Starlink internet in orbit.

In its previous six flights, the booster carried 104 satellites and eight people into orbit.

Falcon 9’s upper stage will fire its unique Merlin engine twice, first to reach a temporary parking orbit and then to propel Nilesat 301 into an elongated transfer orbit extending tens of thousands of miles above. above the Earth. The deployment of Nilesat 301 from the upper stage of Falcon 9 is scheduled approximately 33 minutes after the start of the mission.

Built in France by Thales Alenia Space, Nilesat 301 will support Ultra HD television broadcasts and will replace the Nilesat 201 spacecraft launched in 2010. The spacecraft is owned by Nilesat, a company controlled by Egyptian government organizations.

“The capabilities of the new satellite also include the provision of broadband Internet services to cover the Arab Republic of Egypt and remote areas to provide Internet services for new projects, infrastructure projects, new urban communities and oilfields in the eastern Mediterranean, especially the Zohr field,” Nilesat said on its website.

Thales delivered the Nilesat 301 to Cape Canaveral last month after a transatlantic boat trip from France. The launch of Nilesat 301 was delayed from late April after the planned transport – a Russian-owned Antonov cargo plane – became unavailable following sanctions imposed by Western governments due to the Russian invasion. from Ukraine.

A Falcon 9 rocket stands on Pad 40 of Cape Canaveral Space Force Station with the Nilesat 301 communications satellite. Credit: SpaceX

Nilesat 301 weighs about 4.1 metric tons, or about 9,000 pounds, fully fueled for launch, according to Nilesat. The satellite will deploy its power-generating solar panels and use its own engine to move into a circular geostationary orbit more than 22,200 miles (nearly 35,800 kilometers) above the equator.

In this orbit, the satellite will circle the planet every 24 hours, matching the Earth’s rotation to settle in a position at 7 degrees west longitude to begin an expected 15-year lifespan for Nilesat.

Nilesat 301 hosts Ku-band and Ka-band telecommunications payloads, including 38 transponders, to broadcast signals to Nilesat customers. Nilesat 301 will replace and extend the coverage provided by Nilesat 201, reaching new customers in East Africa and Sub-Saharan Africa.

“We are looking ahead with many strategic partnerships between our African brothers, and for this, Nilesat has built its vision towards its natural expansion in Sub-Saharan Africa with the new Nilesat 301 satellite,” Nilesat said.

Founded in 1996, Nilesat says its current satellites reach more than 56 million homes with more than 270 million viewers in North Africa, the Middle East and the Gulf regions.

The new Nilesat 301 satellite is the fourth to be purchased and launched for Nilesat, which also leases capacity on third-party communications satellites.

Nilesat 301 will also operate in tandem with the TIBA 1 satellite owned directly by the Egyptian government. TIBA 1, which was launched in 2019, provides civil and military broadband and data relay services.

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Follow Stephen Clark on Twitter: @StephenClark1.

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