SpaceX Targeting Twilight Thunder for May 15 Inmarsat Blastoff – Watch Live

The Inmarsat-5 F4 satellite is loaded into the SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket and rolled out to Launch Complex 39A. Launch is slated for May 15, 2017. Credit: Inmarsat

KENNEDY SPACE CENTER, FL – SpaceX is targeting twilight thunder with the firms Falcon 9 rocketing skyward from the Florida Space Coast on Monday 15 carrying a commercial High-Speed broadband satellite for London based Inmarsat.

Blastoff of the Inmarsat-5 Flight 4 communications satellite for commercial broadband provider Inmarsat is slated for early Monday evening, May 15 at 7:21 p.m. EDT (or 23:21 UTC) from SpaceX’s seaside Launch Complex 39A on NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida.

The SpaceX Falcon 9/ Inmarsat-5 Flight 4 is raised erect at the pad into launch position and poised for a twilight liftoff Monday.

All systems are currently GO and the weather outlook is quite favorable at this time.

The twilight setting will put on an outstanding sky show – if all goes well. But there are no guarantees.

SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket carrying Inmarsat 5 F4 broadband satellite stands raised erect poised for twilight liftoff from Launch Complex 39A on 15 May 2017 from NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida. Credit: Ken Kremer/Kenkremer.com

So now is the time is come and watch a launch in person if you have the availability.

“Targeting launch of Inmarsat-5 Flight 4 from Pad 39A on Monday, May 15,” SpaceX confirmed via social media accounts.

The Falcon 9’s launch window extends for 49 minutes until 8:10 p.m. EDT.

The satellites heavy weight with a launch mass of approx. 6,100 kg (13,400 lbs) means the rocket needs all its thrust to get the satellite to orbit and will preclude the chance to land the first stage at sea or land.

Thus there are no landing legs or grid gins attached to the skin of this Falcon 9.

“SpaceX will not attempt to land Falcon 9’s first stage after launch due to mission requirements,” says SpaceX.

The historic pad 39A was previously used to launch NASA’s Apollo Saturn Moon rockets and Space Shuttles.

The built from scratch 229-foot-tall (70-meter) SpaceX Falcon 9 is set to deliver the huge 6100 kg Inmarsat-5 F4 satellite to a Geostationary Transfer Orbit (GTO).

Inmarsat-5 Flight 4 (I-5 F4) satellite undergoes prelaunch processing for liftoff on SpaceX Falcon 9. Credit: Inmarsat

The integrated Falcon 9/Inmarsat-5 F4 were rolled out to the KSC launch pad on Sunday to begin final preparations for Monday’s liftoff.

“#I5F4 satellite, built by Boeing Defense, Space & Security, has been loaded into the SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket and rolled out to Launch Complex 39A,” Inmarsat announced Sunday.

”The countdown to launch tomorrow begins!”

You can watch the launch live on a SpaceX dedicated webcast as well as via Inmarsat starting about 20 minutes prior to the 7:20 p.m. EDT opening of the window.

Watch the SpaceX broadcast live at: SpaceX.com/webcast

Alternatively you can catch the launch on Inmarsat’s dedicated webpage:

“Make sure you catch all the live action here”: www.inmarsat.com/i5f4

SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket carrying Inmarsat 5 F4 broadband satellite stands raised erect poised for twilight liftoff from Launch Complex 39A on 15 May 2017 from NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida. Credit: Ken Kremer/Kenkremer.com

Mondays weather forecast is currently 80% GO for favorable conditions at launch time.

The concerns are for Cumulus clouds and Anvil clouds according to Air Force meteorologists with the 45th Space Wing at Patrick Air Force Base.

In case of a scrub for any reason on May 15, the backup launch opportunity is Tuesday, May 16 at 7:21 p.m. EDT, or 23:21 UTC

The path to launch was cleared following the successful completion of a critical static hot-fire test of the first stage this past Thursday, May 11.

Watch this cool video of Thursday’s engine test as seen from the National Wildlife Refuge near Playalinda Beach on the Atlantic Ocean.

Video Caption: Static fire test of Falcon 9 booster for Inmarsat 5 F4 launch. Testing of the 9 Merlin 1D engines of a SpaceX Falcon 9 booster on Pad 39A in preparation for launch of the Inmarsat 5 F4 satellite on May 15, 2017 from pad 39A at KSC. Credit: Jeff Seibert

The Inmarsat-5 F4 (I-5 F4) will become part of the firms Global Xpress network “which has been delivering seamless, high-speed broadband connectivity across the world since December 2015,” says Inmarsat.

“Once in geostationary orbit, the satellite will provide additional capacity for Global Xpress users on land, at sea and in the air.”

I-5 F4 was built by Boeing at their satellite operations facility in El Segundo, CA for Inmarsat.

The new satellite will join 3 others already in orbit.

Inmarsat 5 F4 will be the sixth SpaceX launch of 2017.

SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket carrying classified NROL-76 surveillance satellite for the National Reconnaissance Office successfully launches shortly after sunrise from Launch Complex 39A on 1 May 2017 from NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida. 1st stage accomplished successful ground landing at the Cape nine minutes later. Credit: Ken Kremer/Kenkremer.com

The 7 meter long satellite be deployed approximately 32 minutes after launch when it will come under the command of the Boeing and Inmarsat satellite operations teams based at the Boeing facility in El Segundo.

It will then be “manoeuvred to its geostationary orbit, 35,786km (22,236 miles) above Earth, where it will deploy its solar arrays and reflectors and undergo intensive payload testing before beginning commercial service.”

Watch for Ken’s continuing onsite launch reports direct from the Kennedy Space Center and Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida.

Stay tuned here for Ken’s continuing Earth and Planetary science and human spaceflight news.

Ken Kremer

SpaceX Continues Torrid 2017 Launch Pace With Commercial High-Speed Inmarsat Broadband Satellite on May 15

Inmarsat-5 Flight 4 (I-5 F4) satellite undergoes prelaunch processing for liftoff on SpaceX Falcon 9. Credit: Inmarsat

KENNEDY SPACE CENTER, FL – SpaceX is all set to continue their absolutely torrid launch pace in 2017 with a commercial High-Speed broadband satellite for Inmarsat on May 15 following Thursday’s successful completion of a critical static hot-fire test of the first stage. Watch our video below.

The static fire test of all 9 Merlin 1 D first stage engines comes just 10 days after the last successful SpaceX Falcon 9 liftoff of the super secret NROL-76 payload for the National Reconnaissance Office, or NRO – as I reported here.

The positive outcome for the static fire test of the first stage engines of the SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket on Thursday afternoon, May 11, paves the path to a Monday evening liftoff of the Inmarsat-5 F4 mission from the Florida Space Coast.

Blastoff of the Inmarsat-5 Flight 4 communications satellite for commercial broadband provider Inmarsat is slated for Monday evening, May 15 at 7:20 p.m. EDT (2320 GMT) from SpaceX’s seaside Launch Complex 39A on NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida.

“Static fire test of Falcon 9 complete,” SpaceX confirmed via social media only minutes after finishing the key test at 12:45 p.m. EDT (1645 GMT).

“Targeting launch of Inmarsat-5 Flight 4 from Pad 39A on Monday, May 15.”

The launch window extends for 50 minutes until 8:10 p.m. EDT.

Watch this cool video of Thursday’s engine test as seen from the National Wildlife Refuge near Playalinda Beach on the Atlantic Ocean.

Video Caption: Static fire test of Falcon 9 booster for Inmarsat 5 F4 launch. Testing of the 9 Merlin 1D engines of a SpaceX Falcon 9 booster on Pad 39A in preparation for launch of the Inmarsat 5 F4 satellite on May 15, 2017 from pad 39A at KSC. Credit: Jeff Seibert

“The countdown begins!” Inmarsat confirmed on the company website.

“Static fire test complete & we are go for launch! #I5F4 will fly with SpaceX on 15 May 19:20 EDT / 00:20 BST.”

The weather forecast is currently 80% GO for favorable conditions at launch time.

The never used 229-foot-tall (70-meter) SpaceX Falcon 9 will deliver Inmarsat-5 F4 to a Geostationary Transfer Orbit (GTO).

The Inmarsat-5 F4 (I-5 F4) will become part of the firms Global Xpress network “which has been delivering seamless, high-speed broadband connectivity across the world since December 2015,” says Inmarsat.

I-5 F4 was built by Boeing at their satellite operations facility in El Segundo, CA for Inmarsat.

For the purposes of the engine test only the first and second stages of the Falcon 9 were rolled up the pad and erected.

Following the conclusion of the hot fire test the Falcon 9 was rolled back off the pad to the huge SpaceX processing hangar located just outside the pad perimeter fence.

SpaceX Falcon 9 recycled rocket carrying SES-10 telecomsat poised atop Launch Complex 39A at the Kennedy Space Center ahead of liftoff on 30 Mar 2017 on world’s first reflight of an orbit class rocket. Credit: Ken Kremer/Kenkremer.com

The Falcon 9 rocket and Inmarsat payload have now been mated to the payload adapted and encapsulation inside the nose cone following the test. The integrated rocket and payload eill soon be rolled about a quarter mile up the ramp at pad 39A to undergo final prelaunch preparations.

“The #I5F4 satellite has been successfully mated to the payload adaptor and attach fitting and encapsulated into the payload fairing in preparation for our SpaceX launch on 15 May,” Inmarsat stated.

“It’s an emotional time for our Inmarsat and The Boeing Company engineers – the satellite will not be seen again before it is launched into geostationary orbit, nearly 36,000km from Earth!”

“Catch all the live action here: www.inmarsat.com/i5f4 #GlobalXpress #makingadifference”

Inmarsat-5 Flight 4 (I-5 F4) satellite undergoes prelaunch processing for liftoff on SpaceX Falcon 9. Credit: Inmarsat

Inmarsat 5 F4 will be the sixth SpaceX launch of 2017 following the NROL-76 launch on May 1.

SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket carrying classified NROL-76 surveillance satellite for the National Reconnaissance Office successfully launches shortly after sunrise from Launch Complex 39A on 1 May 2017 from NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida. 1st stage accomplished successful ground landing at the Cape nine minutes later. Credit: Ken Kremer/Kenkremer.com

Watch for Ken’s continuing onsite launch reports direct from the Kennedy Space Center and Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida.

Stay tuned here for Ken’s continuing Earth and Planetary science and human spaceflight news.

Ken Kremer

Static fire test of Falcon 9 completed on May 11. SpaceX targeting launch of Inmarsat-5 Flight 4 from Pad 39A on Monday, May 15. Credit: SpaceX

High-Speed Space Broadband for Everyone. SpaceX Details their Plans to Launch 1000s of Internet Satellites

SpaeeX and Tesla-founder Elon Musk has made some rather bold promises over the years. In addition to building a fleet of reusable rockets, an Interplanetary Transport System, colonizing Mars, and revolutionizing transportation, he has also made it clear that he hopes to provide worldwide broadband access by deploying a “constellation” of internet-providing satellites.

In November of 2016, SpaceX filed an application with the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) for a license to operate this constellation of non-geostationary satellites (NGS). And earlier this week, the US Senate Committee on Commerce. Science, and Transportation convened a hearing to explore this proposal for next-generation telecommunications services.

The hearing was titled, “Investing in America’s Broadband Infrastructure: Exploring Ways to Reduce Barriers to Deployment”. In the course of things, the committee heard from representatives of government and industry who spoke about the best ways to offer streamlined broadband access (especially in rural areas), the necessary infrastructure, and how to encourage private investment.

SpaceX’s proposed satellite constellation – 4,425 broadband internet satellites – could provide the entire world with high-speed internet access. Credit: ESA

Of those the committee heard from, Ms. Patricia Cooper – VP of Satellite Government Affairs for SpaceX – was on hand to underscore the company’s vision. As she stated:

“SpaceX sees substantial demand for high-speed broad band in the United States and worldwide. As the Committee is aware, millions of Americans outside of limited urban areas lack basic, reliable access. Furthermore, even in urban areas, a majority of Americans lacks more than a single fixed broadband provider from which to choose and may seek additional competitive options for high-speed service.”

Cooper also cited recent FCC findings, which indicated that millions of Americans lag behind other developed nations in terms of broadband speed, access, and price competitiveness. Basically, thirty-four million American citizens do not have access to 25 megabits per second (“Mbps”) broadband service while 47% of students in the US lack the connectivity to meet the FCC’s short-term goal of 100 Mbps per 1,000 students and staff.

This is at at a time when global demand for broadband services and internet connectivity continue to grow at an unprecedented rate. According to a report prepared by Cisco in 2016 – titled “White paper: Cisco VNI Forecast and Methodology, 2015-2020” – global Internet Protocol (IP) traffic surpassed the zettabyte threshold. In other words, over 1,000 billion gigabytes of data were exchanged worldwide in a single year!

SpaceX plans to beginning launching their internet-providing satellites aboard their Falcon 9 rockets beginning next year. Credit: Ken Kremer/Kenkremer.com

By 2020, that figure is projected to double, global fixed broadband speeds are expected to nearly double, and the number of devices connected to IP networks is projected to outnumber the global population by a factor of about 3 to 1. To remedy this situation, and bring broadband access in the US up to the average for developed nations, SpaceX plans to launch 4,425 broadband satellites.

These will begin being launched in 2019 aboard the company’s fleet of Falcon 9 rockets. The launches will continue until they have reached full capacity, which is expected to be by 2024. As Cooper outlined it:

“Later this year, SpaceX will begin the process of testing the satellites themselves, launching one prototype before the end of the year and another during the early months of 2018. Following successful demonstration of the technology, SpaceX intends to begin the operational satellite launch campaign in 2019. The remaining satellites in the constellation will be launched in phases through 2024, when the system will reach full capacity with the Ka- and Ku-Band satellites. SpaceX intends to launch the system onboard our Falcon 9 rocket, leveraging significant launch cost savings afforded by the first stage reusability now demonstrated with the vehicle.”

Other details included the operational altitudes of the satellites – ranging from 1,110 to 1,325 km (690 to 823 mi) – as well as the necessary infrastructure on the ground, which would include “ground control facilities, gateway Earth stations, and end-user Earth stations.” SpaceX has also indicated that it plans to deploy an additional 7.500 satellites that will operate at lower altitudes in order to boost broadband capacity in large population centers.

Naturally, there have to be those people who hear words like “satellite constellation” and immediately think “space junk”. Certainly, the deployment of between 4,425 and 11,925 satellites in the coming years will lead to increasing concerns about “orbital clutter”. Especially when other telecommunications providers are seeking to get in on the trend – a good example being Google’s Project Loon.

Why Space Debris Mitigation is needed. Credit: ESA

And while the subject did not come up during the hearing, it will be unavoidable in the coming years and decades. But in the meantime, the idea of bringing internet access to the world – particularly the developing regions of the world where the infrastructure may not otherwise exist – has the potential of being a great social leveler. In the coming decades, it is expected that internet use will reach proportions unheard of a few decades ago.

By 2020 alone, it is estimated that the number of Internet users will reach almost 5 billion – or roughly half the world projected population of 10 billion. This represents an almost threefold increase from the number of internet users in 2010 (1.7 billion) and an almost 14 fold increase since 2000 (360 million). As such, any investment that will help ensure that this growth occurs more equally across geographic and social barriers is certainly a good one.

The committee also heard testimony from Larry Downes, the Project Director of the Georgetown Center for Business and Public Policy, and Brian Hendricks – the head of Technology Policy & Public Affairs for the Americas Region for Nokia. In addition to addressing the current sate of broadband internet in the US, they made multiple recommendations on how the non-geostationary internet satellite industry could be fostered and developed.

You can read the transcripts and check out the live webcast by going to the hearing page.

Further Reading: US SCCST