Falcon 9 Co-passenger Found for SS/L-built PSN-6 Satellite

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SINGAPORE — Satellite builder Space Systems Loral (SSL) and its customer, PT Pasifik Satelit Nusantara (PSN) of Indonesia, have found a companion payload to share the launch of the PSN-6 satellite aboard a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket in 2017, PSN said June 3.

Neither SSL nor PSN would disclose the identity of the payload here during the CommunicAsia conference. One official said the payload in question was a U.S. government satellite that would be carried into space attached to the PSN-6 before being released just above the geostationary arc 36,000 kilometers over the equator.

Palto Alto, California-based SSL won the PSN-6 contract in November 2014 in part by making a long-standing Falcon 9 launch option part of its bid. The cost of the launch to SSL was apparently low enough that it could integrate it into its offer and win the PSN business with or without a co-passenger.

PSN had signed a contract with Boeing Space and Intelligence Systems of El Segundo, California in 2013 for Boeing’s all-electric 702SP model. But PSN had conditioned the contract on Boeing’s finding a co-passenger to share the cost of the SpaceX launch within 12 months of the contract signing. That would mean securing another 702SP order.

Boeing was unable to make the deadline, and SSL was given the contract.

In a presentation here, PSN Executive Vice President Dani Indra said PSN-6 will weigh about 5,000 kilograms at launch. The satellite, an SSL 1300 satellite frame, will employ electric propulsion to perform at least part of its orbit-raising from its rocket drop-off point to final geostationary position.

In addition, it will use electric propulsion for north-south stationkeeping. In what may by a concession to the requirements of the co-passenger, PSN-6 will employ conventional chemical propellant for east-west stationkeeping in orbit.

Anthony J. Colucci, SSL vice president for marketing and sales, told the conference that PSN-6 was on schedule and had, in fact, found a likely co-passenger to be launched with PSN-6 in a stacked configuration. He declined to be more specific.

PSN-6 will be equipped with 38 C-band transponders and eight Ku-band spot beams for  high-throughput broadband in Indonesia.