TAMPA, Fla. — SpaceX launched the Badr-8 TV broadcast and telecoms satellite May 27 for Saudi Arabia-based fleet operator Arabsat, equipped with a jamming-resistant optical communications payload demonstrator.

The 4,500-kilogram satellite lifted off at 12:30 a.m. Eastern on a Falcon 9 from Cape Canaveral Space Force Station, Florida, and separated from the rocket in geosynchronous transfer orbit about 37 minutes later.

The rocket’s reusable first stage used a drone ship to make its 14th landing following the mission, delayed from May 24 because of poor weather conditions.

Airbus Defence and Space, which built Badr-8 based on its Eurostar Neo platform, declared the launch successful several hours later.

It will take several more months for the 17-kilowatt satellite to use all-electric propulsion to reach its 26 degrees east orbital slot, where it would replace Arabsat’s 15-year-old Badr-6 satellite.

Operating at the end of its 15-year design life, Badr-6 showed its age in February after a thruster issue led to a temporary outage.

Badr-8 is designed to replace and expand Arabsat’s C-band and Ku-band capacity across Europe, Middle East, Africa, and central Asia over its 15-year design life.

The satellite also carries an experimental photonics feeder link called Teleo, which Airbus developed with support from France’s space agency. 

According to Airbus, Teleo is designed to provide space to ground optical communications at gigabit speeds. 

Optical communications are more robust against signal jamming compared with conventional radio frequency technology, Airbus said, and the demonstrator is set to play a key role in expanding the manufacturer’s capabilities in this area.

Arabsat’s fleet comprises 10 satellites across four orbital positions. 

The company announced its latest satellite order last year, picking Airbus’ European rival Thales Alenia Space to build Arabsat 7A to replace Arabsat 5A, which launched in 2010 with 15 years of expected operational life.

Jason Rainbow writes about satellite telecom, space finance and commercial markets for SpaceNews. He has spent more than a decade covering the global space industry as a business journalist. Previously, he was Group Editor-in-Chief for Finance Information...