Billionaire Elon Musk’s SpaceX Corporation is due to use its all-new Falcon-9 rocket to launch SES-8 for SES of Luxembourg later this month. The problem is that the rocket’s test flight on September 29th failed to correctly fire up its upper stage. SES is concerned because without the all-important ‘second burn’ the rocket could leave its communications satellite in a useless low Earth orbit.
SES told trade mag Space News that they were confident that SpaceX would identify the problem ahead of the planned launch. Yves Feltes, SES spokesman, said: “We still plan to be on the next Falcon flight, once SpaceX has solved the problem. But we need a technical explanation. We do need re-ignition of the stage for our satellite.” Feltes added that if the launch date slipped to November they would wait.
Musk made his cash when he sold his PayPal business and he has since invested in the much-talked about Tesla electric sports car, and SpaceX. SpaceX has been a remarkable success even though it is in its very early stages as far as commercial launch contracts are concerned. It has contracts with NASA and has already made successful trips to the International Space Station as well as launching smaller satellites to lower Earth orbits.
SpaceX has a very attractive manifest of commercial contracts in place, estimated to be worth more than $1 billion in value. Besides the upcoming SES-9 launch, they have firm contracts in place with Thaicom, two satellites for AsiaSat, Amos of Israel, Asia Broadcast Satellite (ABS) and SatMex.
SpaceX is a highly competitive launcher in terms of price, and is said to be cheaper than China’s low-cost Long March rocket system, and much cheaper than Europe’s Arianespace rocket.
SES-8 is due to be co-located with NSS-6 operating over India and South East Asia