Thaicom 8 communications satellite delivered to Cape Canaveral
Thaicom PLC is now one step closer to strengthening their space-based broadcast and data services for customers throughout the Eastern Hemisphere with the arrival of the company’s latest commercial communications satellite, Thaicom 8. The craft is now undergoing preparations at Cape Canaveral, Florida, for its scheduled launch sometime in June atop a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket.
The satellite’s manufacturer, Orbital ATK, shipped Thaicom 8 from its facility in Dulles, Virginia, to the Cape, where it arrived on April 27. This is the second spacecraft the company has built for Thaicom, the design of which is based on the GEOStar-2 platform.
Thaicom 8 is the 36th GEOStar-class vehicle built by Orbital ATK. The company was commissioned to build the satellite shortly after the successful January 2014 launch of its sister spacecraft, Thaicom 6—marketed as AfriCom 1.
“We built and delivered this high-quality communications satellite for Thaicom PLC two months ahead of schedule, demonstrating our ability to manufacture reliable, affordable and innovative products that exceed expectations for our customer,” Amer Khouri, vice president of the Commercial Satellite Business at Orbital ATK, said in a press release. “As one of Asia’s leading satellite operators, we are grateful for Thaicom’s continued confidence and look forward to more successful partnerships in the future.”
Weighing just over 6,600 pounds (3,000 kilograms) and sporting two large four-panel solar arrays and three deployable single offset reflector antennae, Thaicom 8 is a Ku-band communications satellite. Its payload includes 24 active transponders that should deliver broadcast and data services to customers in South Asia, Southeast Asia, and Africa for the next 15 years.
Thaicom 8 is planned to deliver these services from a vantage point of 78.5 degrees east longitude nearly 23,000 miles (36,000 kilometers) above Earth in geosynchronous orbit.
The launch vehicle for the satellite will be the Falcon 9 Full Thrust rocket. This version of the Falcon 9 has improved thrust control and tanks filled with supercooled propellant. The SpaceX launch vehicle is expected to deliver Thaicom 8 from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station’s Space Launch Complex 40 to its initial geosynchronous transfer (GTO) orbit next month. From there the commsat will enter a 30-day testing phase.
Following in-orbit activation and after reaching its final orbital slot, Orbital ATK will then turn over control of Thaicom 8 to Thaicom PLC to begin normal operations.
SpaceX’s Falcon 9 rocket series also lofted into space Thaicom 6 more than two years ago using the 1.1 version booster. That mission was only the second time that a Falcon 9 had delivered a satellite into GTO.
Larry Klaes is an author and freelance journalist specializing in news and educational work on the sciences. Klae's past endeavors include editor of SETIQuest magazine and President of the Boston chapter of the National Space Society (NSS). Klaes joined SpaceFlight Insider in 2016.