It is being reported that the planned SpaceX launch of a clutch of 11 smaller satellites for Orbcomm by one of SpaceX’s Falcon-9 rockets, scheduled for December 1st, has slipped to nearer December 15th.
The delay is significant, and worrying, for those traditional satellite operators which have been waiting patiently for their satellites to be orbited since a catastrophic failure of a Falcon-9 rocket back on June 28.
Next in line is SES with a much-delayed launch of its SES-9 craft, which SES had originally hoped to see orbit some months ago. SES-9 had then been expected to be launched this side of Christmas, but with SpaceX taking typically 30-34 days between launches, this could now slip to – at best – mid-January, and one source is indicating January 18th as a likely date.
Also waiting in line are satellites from Eutelsat (117-WB) and ABS 2A, as well as Amos-6, SES-10 and others. However, also in the mix are a number of US-backed scientific or cargo satellites (CRS-8, Jason-3, CRS-9, CRS-10) each of which is expected to launch in the January-March time frame. Indeed, some of these satellites have priority over SpaceX’s commercial clients.
The additional dilemma for SES-9 and Eutelsat 117 WB as well as ABS-2 is that these satellites are ‘all electric’ in how they reach orbit. A normal chemically-fuelled satellite can reach its full orbit in a matter of days. However, this new breed of ‘all-electric’ craft can take around 6 months to reach their target geostationary orbit.
In other words there can be no income flow from any of these satellites for their operators until around the middle of 2016.