SpaceX Iridium-5 launch
A SpaceX Falcon 9 lifts off March 30 carrying 10 Iridium Next satellites. A new report, and other data, states that SpaceX has recently raised $500 million, a round the company has yet to publicly confirm. Credit: SpaceX

PARIS — SpaceX received a contract to launch the first seven O3b mPower satellites using Falcon 9 rockets, the companies announced Sept. 9. 

The contract, signed at the World Satellite Business Week conference here, covers two launches in 2021, SES Chief Technology Officer Ruy Pinto told SpaceNews

Pinto said the launch contract keeps O3b mPower on track following a successful critical design review by satellite manufacturer Boeing within the past few weeks. 

Stewart Sanders, executive vice president and O3b mPower lead at SES, said in an earlier interview that the company was considering Mitsubishi Heavy Industries’ upcoming H3 rocket and Arianespace’s Soyuz and future Ariane 6 launchers as options in addition to SpaceX vehicles. 

“SpaceX offered the best possible combination in terms of schedule assurance, pricing, ease of integration, and visibility into how we work together,” Pinto said. “It just came together at the right time for us.”

Pinto said SES will split the seven satellites into a group of four on one rocket, and three on another. The company hasn’t decided on the order of those missions, he said.

The first 20 O3b satellites launched to medium-Earth orbit on Arianespace Soyuz rockets four at a time. SpaceX has launched five GEO satellites for SES, all using Falcon 9 rockets.

“We are pleased that SES has once again selected Falcon 9 to launch their powerful, groundbreaking communications system,” Gwynne Shotwell, SpaceX president and chief operating officer, said in a statement. 

SES is adding 10 terabits per second of capacity to its fleet with O3b mPower for broadband connectivity services. The Ka-band satellites have a design life of 12 years and will use electric propulsion. 

Caleb Henry is a former SpaceNews staff writer covering satellites, telecom and launch. He previously worked for Via Satellite and NewSpace Global.He earned a bachelor’s degree in political science along with a minor in astronomy from...