SpaceX Falcon 9 to send Koreasat 5A to space Monday
KENNEDY SPACE CENTER, Fla. — SpaceX is getting ready to launch a South Korean communications satellite, Koreasat 5A, into orbit atop a Falcon 9 rocket. The flight will be the 16th that the Hawthorne, California-based company has performed in 2017.
Liftoff from seaside Launch Complex 39A (LC-39A) is slated for 3:34 p.m. EDT (19:34 GMT) Oct. 30, 2017 – the opening of a 2-hour, 24-minute launch window. Weather conditions for this attempt are expected to have less than a 10 percent chance of violating mission rules, according to the 45th Weather Squadron, which is based at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station. The primary concern will be strong winds at liftoff.
The launch will come some four days after the company’s customary pre-launch static fire test, which occurred at about noon EDT (16:00 GMT) Oct. 26, 2017. This involved rolling the Falcon 9, sans the payload and fairing, up the ramp at LC-39A and raising it to a horizontal position.
After a simulated countdown, which involved fueling the rocket with liquid oxygen and rocket grade kerosene (also known as RP-1), the nine first stage Merlin 1D engines ignited. After some three seconds, the onboard computer called an abort and the engines were cut off as planned. Engineers will look at the data from this test to determine whether all is well with the vehicle before committing to the launch.
In the meantime, the rocket was lowered and rolled back into the nearby horizontal integration facility just outside the perimeter fence at LC-39A. There, the encapsulated Koreasat 5A will be attached to the top of the rocket. Once launch day arrives, the full 230-foot (70-meter) tall stack will be rolled back up the ramp and prepped for the actual flight.
Operated by South Korea-based KT Corporation, Koreasat 5A will provide direct-to-home broadcasting, as well as other communications services, to Korea, Japan, Philippines, Guam, Indochina, and South Asia. It will replace Koreasat 5, which was launched in 2006.
SpaceX’s Falcon 9 will launch Koreasat 5A into a geostationary transfer orbit. Once deployed from the vehicle’s second stage, the satellite will use its onboard propellant to circularize its orbit to some 22,300 miles (35,900 kilometers) – geostationary orbit. In particular, it will be parked at the 113 degrees East orbital slot.
Built by Thales Alenia Space, the satellite was constructed around the Spacebus-4000B2 platform. The 7,700-pound (3,500-kilogram) spacecraft has 36 Ku-band transponders at various frequencies and will be powered by two deployable solar arrays producing seven kilowatts of power. It has a projected lifespan of 15 years.
The Falcon 9 first stage used for this mission will be brand new. It will attempt a landing downrange in the Atlantic Ocean on SpaceX’s autonomous spaceport drone ship named Of Course I Still Love You. This will be the 44th Falcon 9 rocket to be launched since 2010 and the 12th to launch from Florida in 2017. It will also be the third flight in October alone.
Should all go according to the current schedule, the company will attempt up to four more Falcon 9 rocket launches before year’s end to bring SpaceX’s 2017 total to 20, potentially outpacing even Russia’s orbital launch count.
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.