SpaceX to send SES’ most powerful satellites to orbit

SpaceX will once again carry SES satellites in its Falcon 9 rockets as the two companies have announced that they have signed a contract.

In particular, SpaceX’s Falcon 9 rocket will be carrying the first seven O3b mPower satellites, which is touted to be SES’ “most powerful and flexible satellite system, [which will be] delivering high-capacity, low-latency connectivity across the world.”

“We are pleased that SES has once again selected Falcon 9 to launch their powerful, groundbreaking communications system,” Gwynne Shotwell, SpaceX president, and chief operating officer, said in a statement.

Notably, this is not the first time that the two companies will be working together. On their first time, SES became the first to launch a commercial GEO satellite with SpaceX, and later as the first-ever payload on a SpaceX reusable rocket.

A GEO or a geostationary is an earth-orbiting satellite, placed at an altitude of approximately 35,800 kilometers (22,300 miles) directly over the equator, that revolves in the same direction the earth rotates (west to east).

At the time, no one dared to do this because of a number of factors but mainly because satellite deployments were not as popular as it is today and satellites deployed in that region of the Earth’s orbit would cater to lesser-developed countries, which companies feared will not be profitable ahead of the then-too-costly satellite deployment rate.

However, SES decided to go through with the idea in prospects of helping improve society.

GEO’s or SES’ Medium Earth Orbit satellites onboard Falcon 9 dramatically scaled the already-proven O3b low-latency, high-performance connectivity services.

Once in orbit, it enabled to connect various communities and improved education, healthcare, and tourism through fiber-equivalent connectivity and carrier-grade, cloud-ready services, including MEF Carrier Ethernet certified services. 

These satellites enabled mobile network operators (MNOs), fixed-line service providers, and enterprises to expand their footprint into regions that are difficult or impossible to serve via terrestrial networks.

Now, working on the development and progress resulted from the MEO satellites, SES is looking to launch another constellation through SpaceX.

Their next launch, in 2021, will be another one to look out for as the revolutionary terabit-scale capabilities of SES’s O3b mPOWER communications system scatters the benefits out of middle Earth and across the globe.

According to SES, their next-generation O3b mPOwer satellites are capable of:

  1. The ability to activate capacity on-demand and optimize communications performance with Software-Define Wide Area Networks (SD-WAN) to select the most efficient solution for your business needs
  2. Easy integration into your existing networks and the rest of SES’s multi-orbit fleet through the use of standards-based Software-Defined Networking (SDN)
  3. Edge compute capabilities to minimize network congestion in aggregation networks
  4. Intelligent multi-orbit resilience with the ability to route traffic by application over GEO, MEO, and terrestrial links
  5. Dynamic allocation of bandwidth across multiple sites to minimize under-used capacity

The contract, signed at the World Satellite Business Week conference, covers two launches in 2021.0

SES Chief Technology Officer Ruy Pinto said the launch contract keeps O3b mPower on track following a successful critical design review by satellite manufacturer Boeing.

Stewart Sanders, executive vice president and O3b mPower lead at SES, said in an earlier interview that the company was considering Mitsubishi Heavy Industries’ upcoming H3 rocket and Arianespace’s Soyuz and future Ariane 6 launchers as options in addition to SpaceX vehicles.

“SpaceX offered the best possible combination in terms of schedule assurance, pricing, ease of integration, and visibility into how we work together,” Pinto said. “It just came together at the right time for us.”

Recently, SpaceX announced that they will be offering cheaper and an innovative way of delivering satellite payloads in orbit, which largely differed in terms of pricing with other ride-sharing companies.

Pinto said SES will split the seven satellites into a group of four on one rocket, and three on another. The company hasn’t decided on the order of those missions, he said.

“Momentum in the O3b mPOWER ecosystem is accelerating quickly as we continue to build the right partnerships to bring this massively innovative communications system to market,” said Steve Collar, CEO of SES.

“Working with SpaceX as our launch provider is fitting because in the last seven years we have already jointly made multiple revolutionary industry advancements that make access to space innovation more cost-efficient and unlock new opportunities in critical markets. We are delighted to have SpaceX as partners for our historic O3b mPOWER launch, and together, we will extend high-performance connectivity to all who have limited access to it today.”

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