Space Exploration Technologies Corporation's (SpaceX) Falcon 9 rocket was initially set to blast off into space carrying the communications satellite of Hong Kong-based Asia Satellite Telecommunications Holdings Ltd. (AsiaSat) last week but the launch was cancelled following an earlier incident with a Falcon prototype malfunctioning in a test flight in Texas albeit technology entrepreneur and SpaceX CEO Elon Musk denied that the postponement has something to do with the incident.
In just a little over a week after the flight's postponement, however, SpaceX blasted off its rocket from the Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida to set the communications satellite AsiaSat 6 into orbit.
At 1 a.m. EDT on Sunday, the 68-meter-rocket took off for its twelfth space mission carrying AsiaSat's commercial satellite that for the next 15 years will provide broadband network and video distribution services in China and Southeast Asia. AsiaSat 6 is outfitted with 28 high-power C-band transponders, half of which will be used by Thailand's Thaicom.
The mission, which is valued at $190 million, is the second time that SpaceX did a commercial mission for AsiaSat. On Aug. 5, the company successfully launched the satellite AsiaSat 8 into orbit. AsiaSat CEO William Wade explained that the short interval between the two missions was due to the two satellites coming out of the factory at almost the same time.
"I'm not sure very many satellite operators have ever launched back-to-back like we're doing. We certainly never have," Wade said. "Our history has usually been a little bit more conservative where we launched satellites usually three-to-four years apart mainly for replacement satellites or some growth that way."
Both of the satellites that SpaceX launched within just over a month are part of AsiaSat's growth plan and not intended to replace aging infrastructure. AsiaSat 8 is anticipated to start service around the first day of September while the AsiaSat 6 is set to follow in October.
"It takes a few days to do orbit-raising and get all the antennas deployed," Wade said. "Then once all the deployments are done and everything is ready to go through in-orbit testing, we'll test all the transponders and subsystems. That usually takes a little less than 30 days. Once that's done, then it will come online."
After its two commercial satellite launches for AsiaSat that cost it $110 million, SpaceX now sets its eyes for a mission under its $1.6 billion contract with the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA).