SpaceX Launches AsiaSat 6, a Month after Lofting AsiaSat 8

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PARIS — A Space Exploration Technologies Corp. Falcon 9 rocket, in its second commercial flight in a month, on Sept. 7 successfully placed the AsiaSat 6/Thaicom 7 telecommunications satellite into geostationary orbit.

Satellite fleet operators AsiaSat of Hong Kong and Thaicom of Thailand, which have agreed to divide the use of the satellite, confirmed that the spacecraft was healthy in orbit and sending signals after separation from the Falcon 9 upper stage.

Weighing about 4,428 kilograms at launch, AsiaSat 6/Thaicom 7 will operate at Thaicom’s 120 degrees east orbital slot, a position Thaicom was at risk of losing before it entered the cooperation arrangement with AsiaSat.

Under the agreement, Thaicom will use 14 of the satellite’s 28 C-band transponders and will pay AsiaSat $171 million over 15 years.

In a statement after the launch, Thaicom — which in the past two years has effectuated a spectacular turnaround in its business — said it had already booked customers for half of its 14-transponder capacity, with the remaining capacity in advanced negotiations with customers.

The Falcon 9 launch, from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, Florida, followed the Aug. 5 launch of the AsiaSat 8 satellite, also for AsiaSat.

AsiaSat purchased both satellites from Space Systems/Loral of Palo Alto, California, in a 2011 contract valued at $233 million. AsiaSat paid SpaceX $52.2 million per launch, or about half of what it would have had to pay for launches aboard competing commercial rockets.

To assure a timely launch, AsiaSat had reserved backup launch services. In any event, the SpaceX flight of AsiaSat 6 was about six months behind schedule, but the delays might well have been longer given the current status of Russia’s Proton rocket and the Russian-Ukrainian Zenit-3SL vehicle, on which AsiaSat had reserved backup launches.

The launch was the fifth of 2014 for Hawthorne, California-based SpaceX, which has three more missions planned before the end of the year.

In a report to the Stock Exchange of Thailand, Thaicom said that its conventional satellite revenue for the first six months of 2014 — a figure that excludes broadband satellite revenue from the IPStar satellite — rose by 47.1 percent during the same period a year ago, to 1.48 billion Thai baht, or $46.1 million, from the Thaicom 5 interim satellite and Thaicom 6. Thaicom 6 entered commercial service in February.

The IPStar consumer broadband business was up 26.4 percent in the six months ending June 30 compared with last year, but flat when comparing the last three months of the period with the previous three months.

Sales of IPStar terminals were down sharply between April and June but up 16 percent for the full six-month period compared with last year. IPStar service revenue was up 3.5 percent in the three months ending June 30 compared with the first three months of the year, and up 27 percent for the six-month period compared with last year.

Thaicom is not finished with its expansion. The Ku-band Thaicom 8 satellite, under construction by Orbital Sciences Corp. of Dulles, Virginia, is scheduled for launch into Thaicom’s 78.5 degrees east slot in the first half of 2016, also on a Falcon 9 rocket. Thaicom has budgeted $178.5 million to cover the satellite’s construction and launch, with an insurance policy to be added later.