SpaceX To Launch Satellite Built by Astrium or Surrey

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Hawthorne, Calif.-based Space Exploration Technologies (SpaceX) will launch an Earth observation satellite designed by European satellite manufacturer EADS Astrium GmbH or Astrium’s recently acquired subsidiary, Surrey Satellite Technology Ltd. (SSTL) of Guilford, England, on a SpaceX Falcon 1e rocket, SpaceX announced Sept. 8.

“The contract is a reflection of the fact that we have a problem in finding launch vehicles for this class of satellite,” Astrium Satellites Chief Executive Evert Dudok said in a Sept. 9 interview. “We use [German-Russian] Rokot vehicles, but they are not available frequently enough. The same is true for the [Russian-Ukrainian] Dnepr vehicle, which we have used. We have also contracted to use India’s PSLV [Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle] vehicle. Between Astrium and SSTL, we have a number of satellites weighing less than 500 kilograms that we want to launch in the coming years, and we got a very good price for the Falcon 1e.”

Financial terms of the contract were not disclosed. SpaceX spokeswoman Cassie Kloberdanz said Sept. 8 that the Astrium mission is yet to be scheduled.

The Falcon 1e is an enhanced version of SpaceX’s Falcon 1 launch vehicle that launched Malaysia’s RazakSat into orbit in July. The Falcon 1 debuted in 2006 and failed in its first three missions before successfully carrying a dummy payload to orbit in September 2008 during its fourth attempt. Based on the Falcon 1, the Falcon 1e has a larger payload fairing and an upgraded propulsion, structures and avionics systems, according to the news release.