SpaceX To Launch Pair of Satellites for AsiaSat

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PARIS — Space Exploration Technologies (SpaceX) will launch the AsiaSat 6 and AsiaSat 8 commercial telecommunications satellites in 2014 under a contract announced Feb. 8 by satellite fleet operator AsiaSat of Hong Kong.

Both satellites are under construction by Space Systems/Loral of Palo Alto, Calif.

The contract with Hawthorne, Calif.-based SpaceX, whose Falcon 9 rocket is still under development for missions to the geostationary orbit used by most telecommunications satellites, gives SpaceX its second customer in Asia following a 2011 contract with Thaicom of Thailand.

Thaicom is also involved in the AsiaSat contract insofar as it is paying AsiaSat $171 million over 15 years for half of the capacity of AsiaSat 6. The satellite, to be located at 120 degrees east longitude, will carry 28 C-band transponders. Thaicom’s share will be rebranded Thaicom 7 for marketing purposes.

Thaicom’s deal with AsiaSat, which was concluded in December, permits Thaicom to retain rights to the 120-degree slot that otherwise would have expired under International Telecommunication Union rules.

AsiaSat 8 will be fully AsiaSat-owned and will carry 24 Ku-band transponders plus a Ka-band beam.

SpaceX Chief Executive Elon Musk, in a Feb. 8 statement, said commercial launches “now represent over 60 percent of our upcoming missions.” SpaceX has contracted with SES of Luxembourg for the launch of a single commercial telecommunications satellite in 2013 pending a flight demonstration of an upgraded Falcon 9 motor and fairing. SpaceX also is under contract to launch the Iridium Next constellation of low-orbiting communications satellites starting in 2014.