Tuesday, April 28, 2015

SpaceX Successfully Launches Turkmenistan's First Satellite

Falcon 9 lifts off from SpaceX’s Launch Complex 40 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station carrying the TurkmenÄlem52E/MonacoSat satellite on Apr. 27, 2015. Credit: SpaceX

On Monday, April 27, 2015 at 7:03pm ET, Falcon 9 lifted off from SpaceX’s Launch Complex 40 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida, carrying the TurkmenÄlem52E/MonacoSat satellite for Thales Alenia Space. While weather had remained a concern throughout the countdown, weather officers were able to find a window in the clouds and Falcon 9 lifted off without a hitch. This launch represented Falcon 9’s fifth launch in four months and second liftoff in 13 days, beating SpaceX’s previous turnaround record by one day. Once in service, TurkmenÄlem52E/MonacoSAT will allow Turkmenistan to operate its first national satellite telecommunications system, ensuring enhanced, secure telecommunications for the country. "Today's mission marks the 18th successful launch in a row for Falcon 9," said Gwynne Shotwell, SpaceX president and chief operating officer. "With our increased cadence of both commercial and government launches out of the Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, SpaceX greatly appreciates the continued support of the 45th Space Wing as a critical mission partner in launching satellites and spacecraft for our customers from across the globe."

Approximately 3 minutes into flight, Falcon 9’s first and second stages separated. The second stage continued to complete a six-minute burn to reach a parking orbit.

Twenty-six minutes into flight, the second stage ignited for a second time and completed a one-minute burn. The TurkmenÄlem52E/MonacoSat satellite deployed approximately 32 minutes after liftoff into a geosynchronous transfer orbit.

Thales Alenia Space soon acquired a signal from the satellite.



The satellite is built on a Thales Alenia Space Spacebus 4000 C2 platform, weighed 4.7 metric tons at launch and offers a design life exceeding 16 years. Its coverage zone encompasses Europe, Central Asia up to the Chinese border and virtually all of Africa. The Turkmenistan Ministry of Communications will use Monaco's 52°E orbital position, via the Monaco-based satellite operator, Space System International - Monaco (SSI).

As prime contractor for this in-orbit delivery contract, Thales Alenia Space was in charge of satellite design and manufacture, along with the manufacture of ground support equipment for the two satellite control stations, all associated services, provision of launch services and insurance. The Turkmenistan team, which manages TurkmenÄlem52E/MonacoSAT, received intensive training from Thales Alenia Space engineers to ensure trouble-free satellite operation.

TurkmenÄlem52E/MonacoSAT satellite. Credit: Thales Alenia
TurkmenÄlem52E/MonacoSAT satellite. Credit: Thales Alenia

TurkmenÄlem52E/MonacoSAT is Thales Alenia Space's first satellite in orbit to use a component made by the additive manufacturing process, also known as 3D printing, namely the T&C antenna horn mounting strut. In addition, it is the first satellite made by Thales Alenia Space to feature "flexible" traveling wave tube amplifiers (TWTA), meaning with adjustable output power.

Col. Shawn Fairhurst, Air Force's 45th Space Wing Vice Commander, who also served as the Launch Decision Authority for this mission, lauded the efforts of SpaceX, Thales Alenia Space, and all the mission partners who once again made this mission a success.

Falcon 9 lifts off from SpaceX’s Launch Complex 40 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station carrying the TurkmenÄlem52E/MonacoSat satellite on Apr. 27, 2015. Credit: John Studwell / AmericaSpace
Falcon 9 lifts off from SpaceX’s Launch Complex 40 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station carrying the TurkmenÄlem52E/MonacoSat satellite on Apr. 27, 2015. Credit: John Studwell / AmericaSpace

"Our ability to be successful during this this very busy op-tempo - and to do so successfully time and time again - speaks volumes about our proven operational processes and the fantastic partnerships we have forged with our launch providers here on the Space Coast," he said.

"One hundred percent mission success is the only grade that matters when it comes to launching rockets safely, and Team Patrick-Cape and our entire space team, do it better than anyone else." Fairhurst said.

Falcon 9’s next launch is space station resupply mission, targeted for June 2015.

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