Sunday, September 7, 2014

Back to Business


Click the arrow to watch the AsiaSat 6 launch footage. Video source: SpaceX YouTube channel.

SpaceX woke up the residents of north Brevard County at 1 AM this morning, launching the Falcon 9 to deliver AsiaSat 6 to geosynchronous orbit.

This is the fifth commercial satellite launch by SpaceX from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station since December 2013. Before the SES-8 launch in December 2013, no commercial satellites had launched from the Cape since 2009. The federal government granted Boeing and Lockheed Martin a legal monopoly in 2006 to create United Launch Alliance. Since then, commercial satellite companies fled overseas where the launch costs were cheaper.

SpaceX is bringing them back.

According to its web site, AsiaSat has two primary shareholders, CITIC Limited and General Electric. According to the CITIC web site, it's “the biggest conglomerate in China with leading businesses in sectors well matched with China’s economic growth and development.” The company is listed in Hong Kong, but according to a filing with the Federal Reserve “CITIC Group is wholly owned by the Chinese government and is supervised by the Ministry of Finance of PRC and audited by the National Audit Office of PRC.”

Instead of launching on one of their own Long March expendable rockets, AsiaSat chose to go with SpaceX.

The above animated GIF posted on NASASpaceflight.com suggests a minor anomaly may have occurred with the second stage engine bell. A hose in the lower left of the right-side image seems to separate around the time the call was made to begin the engine chill. But both SpaceX and AsiaSat have stated the satellite successfully achieved its orbit.

A similar upper-stage anomaly on a ULA launch might go unreported, because often military payload launches go dark shortly after launch. The military doesn't want classified payloads to be seen once the fairing separates.

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