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SES-10 slips to January

The SpaceX explosion of a Falcon 9 rocket back on September 1st, for which no cause has yet been established means that the planned launch of a much-needed satellite for SES has slipped, and will not now be on station until Q1/2017.

The news emerged October 28th during an analysts call with senior SES management during the company’s Q1 results announcements.

On August 30th, SES said it would be using a pre-flown Falcon 9 to launch SES-10. The satellite is due to be placed at 67 deg West, and to replace capacity currently supplied by AMC-3 and AMC-4. In particular, the satellite has a mission to supply bandwidth to the Andean Community (Bolivia, Colombia, Ecuador and Peru), and will be used for the Simón Bolivar 2 satellite network.

The satellite, when on station, will carry 55 transponders, of which 27 are incremental to current available capacity, and will boost capacity available to Mexico and the Latin American and Caribbean regions generally. The satellite is an electric hybrid craft, using chemical propulsion to get to orbit and electric plasma propulsion for on-station manoeuvres.

On the question of the September 1st explosion, which destroyed the Amos-6 satellite owned by Spacecom of Israel, there is increased speculation that the catastrophe could have been caused by a problem with the cryogenic helium system inside SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket’s second stage liquid oxygen tank.

On October 28th SpaceX confirmed that the investigation is now focusing on the second-stage pressurised helium containers, located near the oxygen tank. “Since the incident, investigators from SpaceX, the FAA, NASA, the US Air Force and industry experts have been working methodically through an extensive fault tree to investigate all plausible causes,” said SpaceX.

“As part of this, we have conducted tests at our facility in McGregor, Texas, attempting to replicate as closely as possible the conditions that may have led to the mishap. The investigation team has made significant progress on the fault tree. Previously, we announced the investigation was focusing on a breach in the cryogenic helium system of the second stage liquid oxygen tank. The root cause of the breach has not yet been confirmed, but attention has continued to narrow to one of the three composite overwrapped pressure vessels (COPVs) inside the LOX tank. Through extensive testing in Texas, SpaceX has shown that it can re-create a COPV failure entirely through helium loading conditions. These conditions are mainly affected by the temperature and pressure of the helium being loaded.”

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