The Eutelsat Hotbird-13F geostationary communications satellite was launched atop a SpaceX Falcon 9 from Cape Canaveral, Florida. The Falcon 9 booster 1069-3, which carried out the CRS-24 and Starlink 4-23 missions, launched the Hotbird satellite into geostationary transfer orbit.
The launch took place at the end of the window on Saturday, October 15 at 1:22 a.m. EDT (05:22 UTC). The Falcon 9 was launched due east into an initial parking orbit inclination of 28 degrees from Space Launch Complex 40 (SLC-40) on the grounds of Cape Canaveral Space Force Station (CCSFS) . This is the standard for launches into geosynchronous transfer orbit (GTO).
The Falcon 9, climbing through the night sky, reached maximum dynamic pressure (Max Q) at T+1:12. At about T+2:32, the first stage main engines cut out and the second stage and Hotbird payload separated. Shortly after, the fairing halves separated as the stage continued to orbit.
As the fairing halves were targeted for splashdown and recovery some 781 kilometers east of Cape Canaveral, B1069 made its third flight with a landing on the drone. Just read the instructions, stationed about 663 km downstream from the Cape.
The Merlin Vacuum-powered second stage reignited its engine as it hovered over the equatorial regions of Africa for 58 seconds to place the Eutelsat Hotbird payload into its own geostationary transfer orbit. The satellite was released into its final orbit using its fuel reserves and engines.
Eutelsat Hotbird-13F and its sister satellite Hotbird-13G are expected to replace three existing satellites in the geosynchronous orbital slot of 13 degrees East longitude. These satellites are designed to deliver up to 1,000 TV channels, including 4K video, to over 160 million homes in Europe, North Africa and the Middle East.
The Hotbird-13F and 13G satellites, weighing 4,500 kilograms each, are equipped with 80 Ku-band transponders. These satellites, designed to operate for 15 years, use all-electric propulsion and have 22 kilowatts of power provided by two large solar panels. The all-electric propulsion system enables reduced launch mass for the satellites, which do not have to carry large amounts of liquid fuel.
The two new Hotbird satellites are built by Airbus Defense and Space. Hotbird 13F was the first satellite built under the European Space Agency’s Eurostar Neo program. This program was made possible by an ESA partnership project with Airbus, which is an effort by ESA to improve the innovation and competitiveness of the European space industry in the global market.
Airbus has sold seven other Eurostar Neo satellites alongside Hotbird-13F. ESA’s partnership with Airbus is part of a larger program known as Neosat. This program saw ESA partner with Thales Alenia Space for their Spacebus Neo satellites, and a total of 16 satellites from the two companies from the Neosat program have been ordered.
Eutelsat’s new Hotbird satellites were to be launched using the Arianespace Ariane 6 launch vehicle, but delays to that rocket have caused the satellite operator to turn to SpaceX. Hotbird-13G is currently scheduled to launch on a Falcon 9 from Florida no earlier than November.
The Hotbird-13F launch was SpaceX’s 47th Falcon 9 flight this year. The high flight rate is made possible by reusing the Falcon 9 first stage. After B1069 lands on the drone Just read the instructions on December 21, 2021, thruster attachment issues with the Octagrabber damaged the Merlin engine’s nozzles and landing legs.
B1069 arrived in port with a decided lean to one side and required repairs that caused a long delay between CRS-24 flight and its second launch in August 2022. However, the repairs allowed SpaceX to retain the booster in his fleet. This helps maintain this year’s record flight rate, as payloads won’t need to wait for a new booster.
Prior to the Hotbird-13F’s launch, SpaceX flew the Falcon 9,180 times, with 140 successful landings and 119 total re-flights. The company plans to launch around 60 flights in 2022, and the B1069’s continued service in the booster fleet is made more important by the fact that several Falcon 9 and Falcon Heavy first stages will be expended on upcoming missions.
(Main photo: Falcon 9 launch from SLC-40 with Hotbird-13F. Credit: Stephen Marr)
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