Spaceflight Insider

Merah Putih poised to bring SpaceX’s launch tempo to almost two per month

SpaceX is preparing to launch a Falcon 9 rocket with the Merah Putih satellite this weekend from Cape Canaveral in Florida (Archive Photo). Photo Credit: Scott Schilke / SpaceFlight Insider

SpaceX is preparing to launch a Falcon 9 rocket with the Merah Putih satellite this weekend from Cape Canaveral in Florida (Archive Photo). Photo Credit: Scott Schilke / SpaceFlight Insider

CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla. —  SpaceX is planning to launch its fifteenth mission of the year on Tuesday, Aug. 7. As has been the case with several of the flights successfully carried out in 2018, this week’s planned launch is set to send a communications satellite to orbit.

The payload for this flight is the Merah Putih geostationary communications satellite. Formerly known as Telkom-4, it was constructed by SSL. Upon reaching orbit and after its various systems have been checked, PT Telkomunikasi will manage the satellite’s operations. PT Telkomunikasi is the largest telecommunication and network provider in Indonesia.

Merah Putih satellite photo credit SSL

The Merah Putih satellite. Photo Credit: SSL

Designed to replace the Telkom-1 satellite, Merah Putih’s name reflects the red and white Indonesian flag. Once it has been incorporated into Telkom’s network, it is hoped it will service the 17 thousand islands that constitute the Indonesian archipelago. Its scope and range isn’t limited to Indonesia however. South and Southeast Asia could also benefit from the satellite’s deployment.

“The construction of the Red and White Satellite involves two U.S. companies, namely SSL as a manufacturer of Satellite and SpaceX as a satellite launch service provider. SSL is a leading satellite manufacturing and has successfully completed the Merah Putih Satellite construction ahead of schedule. Furthermore, the Red and White Satellite will be launched towards its orbit slot using SpaceX’s Falcon 9 Rocket,” the Vice President of Corporate Communication’s at Telkom, Arif Prabowo, said on

Merah Putih is designed to be just one component in a network meant to open new telephone and internet markets. Telkom Indonesia will need this addition to its fleet to provide services to the more than an estimated 130 million consumers who use the company’s networks.

Based on the SSL-1300 satellite platform, Merah Putih comes equipped with 60 C-band transponders. Thirty-six of these will be tasked with providing services to the Southeast Asia markets with the remainder planned for use in the Indian market.

Merah Putih is needed to replace the Telkom-1 spacecraft (which was launched on August 4, 1999), at the 108 degree East slot.

“Satellite plays a vital role in our telecommunications infrastructure,” Zulhelfi Abidin, Chief Technology Officer of Telkom said via a statement posted on Cision PR Newswire. “SSL has been an excellent spacecraft supplier and has completed the satellite construction ahead of schedule. We look forward to traveling to Florida to see the satellite launch later this summer.”

If successful, the flight of Merah Putih will see SpaceX’s 2018 launch tally reach 15. This constitutes more launches than the Hawthorne, California-based company carried out between 2010 and 2014 (the NewSpace company conducted 14 launches during those years) combined. In fact, so far in 2018 SpaceX has reached a launch tally of almost a quarter of the missions it has flown since the first Falcon 9 rocket lifted off on June 4, 2010.

In terms of the upcoming Merah Putih mission, the Falcon 9 Block 5 will use the B1046.2 first stage, which was first used to send the Bangabandhu-1 satellite to orbit on May 11, 2018. 

As of the previous mission, that of Iridium NEXT flight 7 on July 25 (from Vandenberg Air Force Base in California), some 14 first stages have been launched, recovered, re-serviced – and flown again.

Tuesday’s flight is slated to take to Florida’s skies at 1:18 a.m. EDT (05:18 GMT), lifting of from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station’s Space Launch Complex 40 (SLC-40) in Florida. 





Jason Rhian spent several years honing his skills with internships at NASA, the National Space Society and other organizations. He has provided content for outlets such as: Aviation Week & Space Technology,, The Mars Society and Universe Today.

Reader Comments


“Almost two per month”?. SpaceX have launched exactly 2 times in every month this year.

Maybe Jason means almost one every two weeks?

Hi “Confusing Title,”
With Merah Putih, SpaceX will have launched 15 times in 8 months. If they had launched twice a month that would be 16 launches. They haven’t. Therefore, yes, “almost” two per month is correct. We’re sorry for your confusion.
Sincerely, Jason Rhian – Editor, SpaceFlight Insider

So you are counting the month that just started in the calculation… Makes total sense, not.
14 previous launches, 7 finished months. Rate is already 2 per month, as he stated.

Aug. 6, 2018,
Hi Luiz,
Yes, we’re counting this month as well. SpaceX could encounter an anomaly or scrub and not be able to launch for the remainder of the month. We operate on an “up to the moment” methodology and, as journalists, can’t predict the future.
Sincerely, Jason Rhian – Editor, SpaceFlight Insider

Stop arguing and fix the syntax on the Es’ Hail 2 launch description.

What is Es’ Hail 2? You shouldn’t be giving writing advice to nobody until you get your own mess sorted out.

Es’hail 2 is a planned communication satellite operated by Es’hailSat, the Qatar Satellite Company. It will also feature an radio amateur payload. The new satellite will be positioned at the 26° East hotspot position for TV broadcasting and significantly adds to the company’s ability to provide high quality, premium DTH television content across the Middle East and North Africa.

So why did you mention some random launch for?

That makes a lot of sense, not. We have only completed 7 months of the year. Month 8 (August) is not complete. When the month has completed, that is when you evaluate the number of launches for that given month, not after a week in to the month.

If by early January 2019, SpaceX manages to accumulate 24 launches in the previous year, then they would have launched 2 per month. Will you still title your articles in 2019 as “SpaceX almost reaches 2 launches per month?”.

Up to the moment methodology or not. It’s not newsworthy information to state something that has been the case 7 times in the past (every month from January to July).

The irony is that this month will be the first month where SpaceX have actually slipped their twice monthly launch cadence.

You were on to something with Merah Putih raising their launch cadence from zero times a month to 1 time a month, which as you astutely pointed out in your headline brings them close to this “elusive” 2 times a month. But you could’ve saved your energy for now with a statement of “Telstar 18 delays drops SpaceX’s launch tempo back to 1 a month”. This was your moment, not then.

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