‘Flight-proven’ Falcon 9 to launch BulgariaSat-1 June 17
Keeping up with its current launch pace of once every two weeks or so, SpaceX announced it was targeting June 17, 2017, for the launch of BulgariaSat-1. Liftoff is slated for the beginning of a two-hour window opening at 2:20 p.m. EDT (18:10 GMT) at Kennedy Space Center’s Launch Complex 39A (LC-39A) in Florida.
This will be the second time the Hawthorn, California-based company will utilize a “flight-proven” Falcon 9 to send a satellite into orbit. The first was in April 2017 with the launch of SES-10. The first stage that will be used for the BulgariaSat-1 mission, core 1029, first flew on Jan. 14, 2017, during the Iridium-1 mission to send 10 Iridium NEXT satellites to space.
Hours after CRS-11 lifted off, this flight-proven booster rolled into the hangar at 39A; targeting June 17 launch of BulgariaSat-1. pic.twitter.com/ZcqRQeJPx6
— SpaceX (@SpaceX) June 7, 2017
Hours after the launch of the CRS-11 Dragon cargo mission to the International Space Station, SpaceX rolled the first stage to be used for the BulgariaSat-1 mission into the horizontal integration hangar just outside of LC-39A. It will be attached to the smaller second stage before being placed on the Transporter Erector to be rolled up the launch pad ramp for a static fire test currently planned for June 13, according to NASASpaceflight.
SpaceX, if it launches BulgariaSat-1 on time, will only barely miss its record turnaround time for a launch pad, which is currently set at 13 days, 2 hours, 49 minutes between the TurkmenSat-1 and CRS-6 missions in 2015 – both of which used Space Launch Complex 40 in nearby Cape Canaveral Air Force Station. The next mission will miss the record by just under 20 hours.
The June 17 mission will see the first geostationary communications satellite owned by a Bulgarian company, Bulsatcom, sent into space. The 8,800-pound (4,000-kilogram) satellite was built by SSL on its SSL 1300 satellite platform. It will provide high-definition television broadcasts and fixed satellite services to the Balkans, Europe, the Middle East and North Africa from a geostationary orbital slot of 2 degrees East.
The Falcon 9 will send BulgariaSat-1 into a geostationary transfer orbit where the satellite‘s onboard propulsion will finish the job of circularizing its orbit.
Once the first stage finishes its job, some two minutes into the flight, it will likely place itself on a trajectory to land on SpaceX’s Autonomous Spaceport Drone Ship Of Course I Still Love You downrange in the Atlantic Ocean. It will then be towed back to Port Canaveral several days later for potential refurbishment and reuse.
Derek Richardson has a degree in mass media, with an emphasis in contemporary journalism, from Washburn University in Topeka, Kansas. While at Washburn, he was the managing editor of the student run newspaper, the Washburn Review. He also has a website about human spaceflight called Orbital Velocity. You can find him on twitter @TheSpaceWriter.