Wednesday, August 31, 2016

Tropical Storm May Delay SpaceX Launch Of Facebook Internet Satellite

CAPE CANAVERAL, Florida -- The launch of a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket carrying an Israeli communications satellite that will provide Facebook internet service could be delayed due to Tropical Storm Hermine.

The Amos-6 satellite is scheduled to liftoff  at 3 a.m. Eastern Daylight Time on Saturday, September 3, 2016, from Space Launch Complex 40 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida.

However, according to the latest weather forecast from the United States Air Force 45th Weather Squadron, there is only a 40% percent chance overall of acceptable launch weather conditions.

"All eyes remain fixed on Tropical Depression Nine as it strengthens slowly in the Gulf of Mexico. The size, speed, track and intensity of the system will be the driving force of the weather over Central Florida for the next three to four days...," the USAF forecast stated.

"The weather along the Space Coast will deteriorate late Wednesday and through the day on Thursday with widespread rain and isolated thunderstorms. Along with strong winds, these thunderstorms can create isolated tornadoes if associated with outer rain bands .... The main weather concern for launch early Saturday morning is liftoff winds, if the storm is slower than forecast, and thick clouds associated with moisture trailing into the storm."


The AMOS-6 satellite, built by Israel Aerospace Industries (IAI) for Space Communication Ltd. (Spacecom), weighs 5,500 kilograms and will be placed in Geo Stationary Orbit.  Thales Alenia Space was subcontracted for electric propulsion using the plasma Hall thruster effect.

Amos-6 is intended to significantly expand the variety of communication services provided by Spacecom to the international market from the orbit slot 4° West, and to replace Amos-2 satellite.

The communication payload includes 45 transponders in three frequency bands - Ku, Ka and S, which enable the satellite to provide a variety of communication services, including direct satellite home internet services which Eutelstat and Facebook have agreed to cost share.

"Over the last year Facebook has been exploring ways to use aircraft and satellites to beam internet access down into communities from the sky," Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg wrote in 2015. "To connect people living in remote regions, traditional connectivity infrastructure is often difficult and inefficient, so we need to invent new technologies."

"As part of our collaboration with Eutelsat, a new satellite called AMOS-6 is going to provide internet coverage to large parts of Sub-Saharan Africa."

Attempted Landing On Drone Ship

Following stage separation, the first stage of the Falcon 9 will attempt an experimental landing on the “Of Course I Still Love You” droneship.  But a successful landing after launch may be difficult because the Geo Stationary Transfer Orbit requires the first stage rocket to reach a significantly higher altitude than other recovered missions. This means that Falcon 9's first stage rocket will becoming down faster with less fuel to slow its descent than prior landing attempts.

Photo credit: Eutelsat