Telestar 18V set for Sunday night liftoff atop SpaceX’s Falcon 9
CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla. — The Sunday night sky over Cape Canaveral Air Force Station’s Space Launch Complex 40 is scheduled to erupt briefly in a blaze of light when a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket lifts the Telstar 18 VANTAGE communications satellite to orbit for the Canadian satellite services provider Telesat.
Liftoff is currently targeted for the opening of a four-hour window that begins at 11:28 p.m. EDT Sept. 9 (03:28 GMT Sept. 10), 2018. The 45th Weather Squadron estimates a 40 percent chance of weather conditions violating launch constraints. The primary concerns are thick and cumulus clouds. Should a 24-hour scrub occur, conditions are expects to be similar for a Monday night launch attempt.
SpaceX is looking to continue its recent string of successes with this latest mission, which will be the 61st flight of a any Falcon 9 variant, the 41st of the Falcon 9 v1.2, and the third of a Block 5. Consistent with CEO Elon Musk’s pledge for reusable rockets, the brand-new first stage is planned to be recovered in the Atlantic Ocean on the drone ship Of Course I Still Love You. Aficionados will be eagerly monitoring that particular booster’s turn-around time, how quickly the company will be able to ready it for another future launch.
The trip to Telstar 18V’s intended geostationary parking spot at 138 degrees east longitude over the equator is actually a two-step process. Although the exact details have yet to be released by SpaceX and Telesat, it is expected that the Falcon 9 will propel satellite into a highly-elliptical geostationary transfer orbit (GTO), perhaps with an apogee close to its final altitude.
After that, the Telstar 18V is designed to utilize its internal propulsion system to navigate the the rest of the way to its geostationary slot, circularizing its orbit at an altitude of about 22,300 miles (35,900 kilometers)—about 100 times higher than the International Space Station.
The satellite, though traveling at 6,870 mph (11,056 kph) in its operational orbit, will have the same angular speed as the Earth—one revolution every 23 hours, 56 minutes, and 4.1 seconds—resulting in the vehicle hovering over same point indefinitely over the Pacific Ocean.
SSL was contracted in 2015 to build Telestar 18V for Telesat, the fourth largest fixed satellite services provider in the world. Telesat has six other spacecraft with the Telstar name, the most recent being Telstar 19V, which was launched July 22, 2018, atop a Falcon 9 from SLC-40 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station and serves the Americas.
Telesat’s fleet also boasts 10 other satellites. Telestar 18V will be the company’s third powerful “High Throughput Satellite,” featuring both C-band (for telecom video and data services) and Ku-band (its higher power allows use of smaller antenna dishes) frequencies.
At 15,564 pounds (7,060 kilograms), Telstar 18V is a few pounds lighter than Telstar 19V and is designed to serve a large area from India and Pakistan in the west all the way to Hawaii in the east, expanding Telesat’s coverage of China, Mongolia, Southeast Asia, and the Pacific Ocean area.
Telstar 18V is expected to replace Telstar 18, which was launched in 2004 and is also located at 138 degrees east longitude. According to SatBeams, there are 374 active satellites in geostationary orbit above the Earth. Another 50 have been retired and 53 more have been deorbited.
Jim Siegel comes from a business and engineering background, as well as a journalistic one. He has a degree in Mechanical Engineering from Purdue University, an MBA from the University of Michigan, and executive certificates from Northwestern University and Duke University. Jim got interested in journalism in 2002. As a resident of Celebration, FL, Disney’s planned community outside Orlando, he has written and performed photography extensively for the Celebration Independent and the Celebration News. He has also written for the Detroit News, the Indianapolis Star, and the Northwest Indiana Times (where he started his newspaper career at age 11 as a paperboy). Jim is well known around Celebration for his photography, and he recently published a book of his favorite Celebration scenes. Jim has covered the Kennedy Space Center since 2006. His experience has brought a unique perspective to his coverage of first, the space shuttle Program, and now the post-shuttle era, as US space exploration accelerates its dependence on commercial companies. He specializes in converting the often highly technical aspects of the space program into contexts that can be understood and appreciated by average Americans.