April 14, 2024

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Eutelsat mission marks first possible triple Falcon 9 launch day for SpaceX – Spaceflight Now

Eutelsat mission marks first possible triple Falcon 9 launch day for SpaceX – Spaceflight Now
A Falcon 9 rocket carrying the Eutelsat 36D satellite lifts off from Launch Complex 39A at NASA's Kennedy Space Center on March 30, 2024. Image: Adam Bernstein/Spaceflight Now

SpaceX is aiming to hit an ambitious launch cadence on Saturday evening with the potential for three launches in less than five hours. The first two Falcon 9 rockets are scheduled to depart from Florida's Space Coast, with the final mission launching from Vandenberg Space Force Base in California.

First up on the board was the Eutelsat 36D mission, which lifted off from Launch Complex 39A at NASA's Kennedy Space Center at 5:52 p.m. EDT (2152 UTC).

The Falcon 9 first stage booster supporting this mission, tail number B1076, has been launched into the SpaceX fleet, for the 12th time. It has previously supported missions such as the Commercial Resupply Services Dragon 26th (CRS-26) flight to the International Space Station, Intelsat IS-40e and Ovzon-3.

About 8.5 minutes after liftoff, SpaceX's “just read the instructions” drone, B1076, touched down in the Atlantic Ocean. This was the 76th landing aboard JRTI and the 289th booster landing to date.

The all-electric Eutelsat 36D satellite is ready for transport to Florida from Toulouse, France. Image: Airbus

The payload for this mission is the Eutelsat 36D satellite, which measures 4 x 5 m x 4 m or the size of a small truck, according to the satellite's manufacturer, Airbus. The geostationary communications satellite arrived in Florida on Monday, March 11, aboard Airbus's new BelugaXL aircraft, which is based on the A330-200 platform.

The satellite is the 22nd geostationary satellite manufactured by Airbus Eutelsat. It features 70 physical Ku-band transceivers and is based on Airbus's Eurostar Neo satellite bus. Eutelsat said it will replace the Eutelsat 36B satellite at a position of 36 degrees east.

In addition to “delivering more than 1,100 TV channels to millions of homes” in regions of Africa and Eurasia, the satellite has also been selected by Airbus Defense and Space to carry its latest Ultra High Frequency (UHF) payload to support trans-terrestrial communications. “Europe, Middle East and Africa region,” Eutelsat said in a statement.

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View of the Eutelsat 36D satellite in orbit at 36 degrees east. Graphic: Eutelsat

After attempting to launch the Eutelsat 36D mission, SpaceX also hopes to launch two Starlink satellite missions. The first, Starlink 6-45, is intended to lift off at 9:02 PM EDT (0102 UTC) from Space Launch Complex 40 (SLC-40) at Cape Canaveral Space Force Station.

The Falcon 9's third flight of the night will launch from Space Launch Complex 4 East (SLC-4E) at 7:30 PM PST (10:30 PM EDT (0230 UTC). This mission was originally scheduled to launch Thursday night, but was pushed back to Friday and then to Saturday, as a large storm system is hitting Southern California and the area is not expected to be cleared until Sunday, so further delays to this mission are likely.

A Falcon 9 rocket carrying the Eutelsat 36D satellite was seen rising into the sky under the American flag at the press site at NASA's Kennedy Space Center. Image: Michael Caine/Space Flight Now