Turkmenistan launched its first satellite into orbit Monday atop a Falcon 9 rocket from SpaceX. There was a bit of delay for the launch because of cloudy conditions but the event was nonetheless a success, with the satellite finally sending back a signal after reaching geosynchronous orbit.
Launching from Complex 40 of the Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida, the communication satellite, TurkmenÄlem52E/MonacoSat, was built by Thales Alenia Space in behalf of the Turkmenistan Ministry of Communications. Once live, the satellite will let Turkmenistan operate its first national satellite communications system, offering improved telecommunication for the country.
Built on a Spacebus 4000 C2 platform from Thales Alenia Space, the TurkmenÄlem52E/MonacoSat is expected to have a design life beyond 16 years. Weighing 4.7 metric tons, the satellite is big enough to cover Europe, Africa and Central Asia, all the way up to China's borders. The Turkmenistan Ministry of Communications will be utilizing Monaco's orbital position via the Space System International - Monaco to use the satellite.
Aside from the satellite itself, Thales Alenia Space was also tasked with manufacturing ground support equipment to be used in two satellite control stations as well as all provisions for launches, insurance and all related services. To ensure trouble-free operation of the satellite, the Turkmenistan team underwent intensive training from engineers from Thales Alenia Space.
The TurkmenÄlem52E/MonacoSat will also have the distinction being the first of Thales Alenia Space's satellites to feature 3D-printed parts, specifically the mounting strut for the T&C antenna horn, as well as the first to use flexible traveling wave tube amplifiers with adjustable output for power.
As for the launch vehicle used by the satellite, the Falcon 9 features a two-stage rocket setup designed to be cost-efficient and reliable. With a two-stage rocket, the TurkmenÄlem52E/MonacoSat will be subjected to very little separation events. The first to be developed completely in the 21st century, the Falcon 9 is fitted with nine first-stage engines to guarantee that the mission continues even if an engine shutdown occurs.
This launch marks the fifth successful mission for SpaceX in 2015 and the second one for the company in just two weeks. Last April 14, SpaceX sent its Dragon spacecraft to the International Space Station for a resupply mission for NASA. The company also used the resupply mission to test out rocket reusability by attempting to land the rocket in the Atlantic Ocean on an unmanned spaceport drone ship. The attempt was a failure, with the rocket stage hitting the ship but falling over and exploding.