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SES-9 faces further delays

February 3, 2016

By Chris Forrester

The much-needed SES-9 satellite looks like it will be suffering further delay in its launch aboard a SpaceX Falcon-9 rocket. Some comments now suggest the launch will take place in March. IF this is the case then it will be some 6 months later than originally planned.

Originally scheduled for LAST September, and then delayed until October and again until late December, most industry insiders expected the launch to take place in January. The satellite was shipped to the Florida launch site in early December, in anticipation of a January launch.

SpaceX did manage a wholly successful launch on December 21st of an Orbcomm cluster of 11 small satellites.

The delay will certainly impact SES’s revenue picture which had initially expected the satellite to be on station and earning its keep by now. SES-9 is designed to carry 81 (equivalent) Ku-band transponders and operate from a well-established SES orbital position at 108.2 deg East, and serving Asia and in particular the Indian and South-East Asia markets.

SES-9 is an ‘electric’ thruster satellite, which will take some months to get to its final orbital destination. SES-9 uses a chemical bi-propellant apogee motor to quickly achieve a 24h synchronous orbit and then electric propulsion to circularise the final orbit and to remove eccentricity at 36,000 kilometers over the equator. Subsequent on-orbit manoeuvres will be executed with electric propulsion.

All SES will say at the moment is that the satellite is due for a Q1 launch.

Once SpaceX has launched SES-9 – whenever that takes place – it has a long queue of clients equally keen to get their satellites aloft, including Eutelsat, ABS of Bermuda/Manila and Spacecom of Israel’s Amos-6.  On Jan 26 Spacecom said their Amos spacecraft would launch in May, and that date now looks very unlikely.

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