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SpaceX Falcon 9 To Send EchoStar 23 Communications Satellite To Space

First Posted: Mar 13, 2017 06:07 AM EDT
Falcon 9 Rocket
Falcon 9 rocket being tested before launch.
(Photo : The Last News/YouTube screenshot)

SpaceX's Falcon 9 rocket is now set to launch from the Kennedy Space Center's Launch Complex 29A, with liftoff targeted for March 14. The 230-foot tall rocket will be sending the EchoStar 23 communications satellite to space with a payload that is heavy enough to be placed into a high-energy geostationary transfer orbit.

According to Space Flight Insider, the flight is expected to be the last planned for Falcon 9, although the company will have no intention of recovering it. EchoStar 23, a Ku-band satellite, has four main reflectors and multiple sub-reflectors. It weighs around 12,100 pounds (5,488.5 kilograms).

SpaceX's flagship two-stage rocket is intended for transporting satellites, as well as the Dragon spacecraft, into orbit. The first stage rocket has nine engines with tanks of liquid oxygen and rocket-grade kerosene as fuel. Its second stage then has a single engine and helps bring the Falcon 9's payload to the target orbit.

The EchoStar 23 satellite is intended to service markets in South America, with thrusters used to circularize the orbit at over 22,000 miles (35,406 km) above the equator -- known as the geostationary orbit. In particular, it will be used to supply Brazilian television services for its lifetime of at least 15 years.

Pulse Headlines reported that the launch was originally planned for 2016. However, the explosion that destroyed the Falcon 9 rocket in September suspended the mission. The EchoStar 23 was supposed to have launched before the CRS-10 International Space Station resupply mission. But due to the additional testing required of the satellite, it was switched on the priority list of launches.

After the CRS-10 was out of the way, EchoStar 23's mission was able to move forward. On March 7, the satellite was tested and evaluated to verify that it is working properly. However, the initial firing first occurred on March 9, which moved the launch from March 12 to March 14, as engineers had to pore over the data to ensure everything goes along as planned.

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