SpaceX launches Hispasat satellite, completes 50th Falcon 9 mission


WASHINGTON — SpaceX launched its 50th Falcon 9 rocket on March 6, carrying a large telecom satellite for Spanish fleet operator Hispasat.

The Falcon 9 lifted off from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida at 12:33 a.m., and deployed the six-ton satellite into a geostationary transfer orbit 33 minutes later.

SpaceX did not attempt to land the Falcon 9’s first stage after the mission due to poor weather conditions that prevented sending the drone ship “Of Course I Still Love You” out to sea.

Hispasat 30W-6 is the largest satellite SpaceX has flown on a Falcon 9 to date, CEO Elon Musk tweeted the day before the launch.

SpaceX rescheduled today’s mission from Feb. 24 to correct a problem with the Falcon 9’s fairing pressurization system. After resolving that issue, SpaceX was interested in launching the satellite on March 1, but was told to wait by the U.S. Air Force since that would have given less than 17 hours between Hispasat 30W-6 and a United Launch Alliance Atlas-5 launch of the GOES-S weather satellite later that day.

Hispasat 30W-6 is the third new satellite Madrid-based Hispasat has launched in the past 15 months. Hispasat launched the Amazonas-5 satellite on a Russian Proton through International Launch Services in September, and Hispasat-36W-1 on a Soyuz rocket from European launch provider Arianespace in January 2017.

Built by Space Systems Loral of Palo Alto, California, Hispasat 30W-6 replaces the 15-year-old Hispasat 30W-4 satellite at 30 degrees west.

By comparison, Hispasat 30W-4 was a much smaller satellite, weighing around 3,300 kilograms, almost half of Hispasat 30W-6, and carried 28 Ku-band transponders.

Hispasat 30W-6 is equipped with 40 Ku-band transponders, as well as 10 in C-band and 6 in Ka-band. The satellite is designed for television broadcasting, broadband connectivity and other telecommunications services over Europe, Northern Africa and the Americas.

Spanish technology suppliers Das Photonics and Tryo Aerospace built a Ka-band receiver demonstration module into Hispasat 30W-6’s that uses optical components for data routing within the satellite instead of microwave systems. The experiment could help lower the mass of future satellites and improve flexibility and throughput, according to the companies involved.