SES Effusive in Praising SpaceX Prior to Launch

SES Effusive in Praising SpaceX Prior to Launch

A day before SpaceX is to launch a communications satellite into a geostationary transfer orbit for the first time, the Chief Technology Officer (CTO) of the satellite’s owner, SES, was effusive in his praise of SpaceX as a “game-changer” in the launch services industry.

SES CTO Martin Halliwell said in a pre-launch media teleconference this afternoon that SpaceX’s entry into the launch services market is a “game-changer that will shake the industry to its roots.”   He said other launch services providers are very interested in this launch and “rather worried for their future and how they organize themselves and their industrial processes to be competitive in the commercial launch market.”

Price is a dominant factor in SpaceX’s attractiveness, Halliwell said.   In an email exchange later, however, SES spokesman Yves Feltes replied “no comment whatsoever” in response to a question about how much SpaceX is charging SES for this launch either as a dollar amount or a percentage difference from other providers. 

Halliwell also cited the “close relationship” SES has with SpaceX as being different from other launch providers.

The satellite, SES-8, is headed to geostationary orbit (GEO), 35,800 kilometers (km) above the equator, but SpaceX’s Falcon 9 v1.1’s job is only to get it into an intermediate Geostationary Transfer Orbit (GTO) at 295 x 80,000 km.  Attaining that orbit requires restarting the Falcon 9 v1.1’s second stage.   An attempt to test that on the first launch of this version of the Falcon 9 in September failed, but SpaceX and SES are clearly satisfied that the problem was rectified.  SpaceX CTO Elon Musk and President and Chief Operating Officer Gwynne Shotwell confirmed at the media teleconference today that the problem was a frozen fuel line on the igniter.  They resolved it by adding more insulation.   Halliwell said SES is ‘very, very confident” that the issue is understood and “pretty confident the risk from that particular element has been retired” and “we are ready to launch.”

Halliwell’s comments are somewhat unusual prior to launch.  Unbridled enthusiasm for a launch services provider typically comes after a satellite is successfully inserted into orbit.

The launch window tomorrow (Monday, November 25) opens at 5:37 pm ET.  SpaceX will webcast the launch on its website.

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