Merah Putih poised to bring SpaceX’s launch tempo to almost two per month
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.
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 industry.co.id.
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, Space.com, The Mars Society and Universe Today.