LONDON — Satellite fleet operator AsiaSat of Hong Kong has secured additional backup option for previously purchased launches aboard the SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket by booking a reservation with commercial launch services provider Sea Launch AG, Sea Launch and AsiaSat announced Nov. 28.

Under the agreement, AsiaSat will launch a future satellite aboard Bern, Switzerland-based Sea Launch’s floating platform stationed on the equator in the Pacific Ocean.

AsiaSat has purchased two launches aboard the Falcon 9 rocket built and operated by Space Exploration Technologies Corp. (SpaceX) of Hawthorne, Calif. The AsiaSat 6 and AsiaSat 7 satellites, both under construction by Space Systems/Loral of Palo Alto, Calif., are scheduled to launch in the first half of 2014 on separate Falcon 9 vehicles.

SpaceX has a busy manifest in the next two years as it works to introduce a new, higher-power Falcon 9 rocket and to satisfy the demands of its commercial customers and of NASA’s contract for cargo deliveries to the international space station.

SpaceX Chief Executive Elon Musk, in a speech to the Royal Aeronautical Society here Nov. 16, said production ramp-up of the new Falcon 9 is proceeding on schedule, but that satellite delays or other unplanned events are likely to limit the company to four or five Falcon 9 launches in 2013.

That would include a final flight of the current Falcon 9 and three, or perhaps four, launches of the new Falcon 9 version, Musk said. SpaceX’s published flight manifest shows about eight launches planned for 2013.

In June, AsiaSat contracted with International Launch Services (ILS) of Reston, Va., which markets Russia’s Proton heavy-lift vehicle, for the launch of one of the three satellites AsiaSat is planning: AsiaSat 6 and AsiaSat 8, both booked on Falcon 9, or AsiaSat 9, which has not yet been ordered.

The ILS contract included an option for the launch of a second of these three satellites.



Stratolaunch Turns to Orbital as SpaceX Drops Out

AsiaSat Books ILS Launch as Hedge Against SpaceX Delay

Peter B. de Selding was the Paris Bureau Chief for SpaceNews.