SpaceX completes SES C-band launches
March 20, 2023
By Chris Forrester
Europe might be struggling to manage its own Ariane 6 build or even bring its Vega-C rocket back to the launch pad, but on March 17th, SpaceX managed two separate launches that were just four hours apart.
The more important of the two was the commercial launch and orbiting of two satellites, SES-18 and SES-19, from Cape Canaveral Space Force Station in Florida (and using Launch Pad 40). The mission was a complete success and wraps up SES’s transition obligations to the FCC over the freeing up of certain C-band frequencies over the US.
The Falcon 9 booster used on the SES mission was the sixth launch and landing of this booster, which previously supported the launch of the CRS-24, Eutelsat’s HOTBIRD 13F, OneWeb 1, and two Starlink multi-satellite launches.
SES can now prepare its bank account for a $3 billion (€2.8bn) injection of FCC cash, likely to be paid at the end of 2023. SES has cleared 300 MHz of spectrum for the US to repurpose for 5G cellular telephony.
SES-18 is expected to begin operations in June of 2023 at 103 degrees West, replacing C-band bandwidth at the orbital slot, and SES-19 will be co-located with SES-22 at 135 degrees West.
“This successful launch marks one of the last remaining milestones on our journey to clear a portion of the C-band, and we are incredibly grateful to Northrop Grumman, SpaceX, and all of our partners who helped make this plan a reality,” said Steve Collar, CEO of SES. “We are now on the home stretch in protecting our customers’ broadcasts while freeing crucial 5G spectrum and we look forward to successfully concluding our work well before the FCC’s December 2023 accelerated clearing deadline.”
After stage separation, the first stage landed on the ‘Just Read the Instructions’ droneship, which was be stationed in the Atlantic Ocean.
Collar, clearly delighted with the day’s outcome, confirmed that both satellites had beamed telemetry back to Earth and were healthy. “We will take it from here,” he told SpaceX.
However, just four hours previously, although this time from Vandenberg Space Force Base in California, SpaceX lofted 52 of its own Starlink satellites into orbit and followed by another textbook landing at sea of its Falcon 9 booster.
It was the 18th orbital mission of the year (and thus the SES mission was the 19th) and takes the over number of Starlink satellites in orbit to 3,803 (out of a total launched of 4105 according to space observer Jonathan McDowell’s count).