Spaceflight Insider

SpaceX to launch SES-11 satellite Wednesday

The SES-11 communications spacecraft undergoes testing. Photo Credit: SES

The SES-11 communications spacecraft undergoes testing. Photo Credit: SES

KENNEDY SPACE CENTER, Fla. — Less than 60 hours after a Falcon 9 rocket launched 10 Iridium NEXT satellites into space from the West Coast, on the other side of the continent SpaceX is set to send the SES-11 spacecraft into orbit for a scheduled liftoff at 6:53 p.m. EDT (22:53 GMT) Oct. 11, 2017, from Launch Complex 39A.

Launching atop a flight-proven Falcon 9 rocket, SES-11 will be SpaceX’s 15th mission in 2017, continuing a very busy year for the company. The particular first stage used for this mission, core 1031, was first flown during CRS-10 in February 2017.

A map detailing the coverage areas for SES-11 satellite. Image Credit: SES

A map detailing the coverage areas for SES-11 satellite. Image Credit: SES

Additionally, this flight will mark the first repeat customer to fly on a recovered booster. In late-March of 2017, SES-10 was launched atop the first re-flown booster on behalf of Luxembourg-based SES.

The SES-11 mission was originally planned to launch on Oct. 7, 2017. However, on Oct. 5, SpaceX opted to delay the flight until after the Iridium-3 satellites were delivered into space via a West Coast Falcon 9 rocket. The reason for the delay was not announced.

SES-11/EchoStar-105 is a hybrid communications satellite manufactured by Airbus Defence and Space and will provide Ku- and C-band coverage across North America, including Mexico, Hawaii, and the Caribbean. It is a dual-mission satellite for both U.S.-based EchoStar and SES.

The 11,500-pound (5,200-kilogram) satellite will be placed in geostationary orbit over 105 degrees West Longitude and is intended to replace the AMC-15 and AMC-18 satellites that were launched in 2004 and 2006, respectively. Optimized for digital television delivery, SES-11 utilizes the Airbus Eurostar E3000 platform and is designed to accelerate the roll-out of high and ultra-high definition video services to North America.

According to SES, “The spacecraft’s Ku-band capacity will replace AMC-15 at 105 degrees West, an orbital position where EchoStar has been our anchor customer since 2006. The spacecraft’s C-band capacity will provide [a] replacement for AMC-18 at the same position.”

SES has been a long-time customer of SpaceX and agreed to fly SES-10 using a flight-proven Falcon 9 first stage on March 30, 2017, becoming the first geostationary satellite to be launched using a reused booster. The first stage for the SES-11 mission was first flown on Feb. 19, 2017, to send a Dragon spacecraft to the International Space Station.

The Oct. 11 launch will be the third time SpaceX has used a flight-proven Falcon 9 booster.

As of Oct. 10, the weather forecast is calling for partly cloudy skies with a high of 82 degrees Fahrenheit (28 degrees Celsius). Winds are predicted to be about 8 mph (13 km/h) out of the east-northeast. Should the weather or a technical issue crop up, the company has a two-hour launch window to get the Falcon 9 off the ground. A backup date not been announced should the flight attempt be scrubbed.

This mission will be the 43rd Falcon 9 rocket to launch since 2010 and the 15th in 2017 – with up to five more planned before year’s end. Additionally, it will be the 11th to fly out of Launch Complex 39A. After SES-11 gets off the ground, SpaceX’s next flight is expected in late October and will see Koreasat 5A orbited for KT Corporation.



Paul is currently a graduate student in Space and Planetary Sciences at the University of Akransas in Fayetteville. He grew up in the Kansas City area and developed an interest in space at a young age at the start of the twin Mars Exploration Rover missions in 2003. He began his studies in aerospace engineering before switching over to geology at Wichita State University where he earned a Bachelor of Science in 2013. After working as an environmental geologist for a civil engineering firm, he began his graduate studies in 2016 and is actively working towards a PhD that will focus on the surficial processes of Mars. He also participated in a 2-week simluation at The Mars Society's Mars Desert Research Station in 2014 and remains involved in analogue mission studies today. Paul has been interested in science outreach and communication over the years which in the past included maintaining a personal blog on space exploration from high school through his undergraduate career and in recent years he has given talks at schools and other organizations over the topics of geology and space. He is excited to bring his experience as a geologist and scientist to the Spaceflight Insider team writing primarily on space science topics.

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