SpaceX launches Amos-17 satellite for Spacecom

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WASHINGTON — SpaceX launched a communications satellite for Israeli satellite operator Spacecom Aug. 6 on an expendable Falcon 9 mission. 

The rocket lifted off from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida at 7:23 p.m. Eastern, following a three-day delay to replace a suspect rocket valve

Amos-17, Spacecom’s newest satellite, separated from the rocket’s upper stage 32 minutes after liftoff. The launch is SpaceX’s tenth for the year. 

Spacecom famously lost a satellite, Amos-6, during a Falcon 9 explosion days before a planned launch in 2016. The satellite operator said in 2017 that its launch of Amos-17 would be fully covered by credits from the unfulfilled mission

Built by Boeing, Amos-17 is designed to provide broadcast and broadband connectivity services across sub-Saharan Africa, Europe, the Middle East and parts of Asia. The satellite carries a mix of C-, Ku- and Ka-band transponders, plus a digital channelizer for improved capacity allocation and signal interference mitigation. 

SpaceX used the same first-stage booster to launch two previous satellites: Telstar-19 Vantage for Canadian operator Telesat in July 2018, and Es’hail-2 for Qatari operator Es’hailSat in November 2018. The company did not land the Falcon 9 booster for this mission, devoting the fuel that would have been used for a recovery instead to placing the 6,500-kilogram satellite into orbit. 

SpaceX CEO Elon Musk tweeted after the launch that a drone ship successfully captured a payload fairing from the mission.

Amos-17 is designed to operate for 20 years — five more than the average geostationary communications satellite. With solar panels deployed, the satellite has a wingspan of 35 meters. 

Spacecom tasked Boeing with building Amos-17 in December 2016 under a $161 million contract. The satellite replaces Amos-5, a Russian and French-built spacecraft that ceased communicating in November 2015 just four years after launch due to a power failure.

Spacecom has been borrowing an AsiaSat satellite since 2017 to fill the gap left by Amos-5 while waiting for the launch of Amos-17. The company ordered another satellite, Amos-8, from Maxar Technologies in 2018, but canceled the purchase and a SpaceX Falcon 9 launch contract after the Israeli government said the satellite would be built domestically instead.