SpaceX successfully launched a Falcon 9 rocket from Cape Canaveral Space Force Station in Florida. The rocket carried Eutelsat’s Hotbird 13G geostationary communications satellite into orbit. The Falcon 9 rocket’s first stage booster also successfully landed on a drone ship in the Atlantic Ocean.
The Hotbird 13G satellite, built by Airbus, weighs approximately 10,000 pounds and will provide television and radio channels across Europe, the Middle East, and North Africa. It is the twin satellite of Hotbird 13F, which was launched in October 2021 on a previous SpaceX Falcon 9 mission. Both satellites were built using Airbus’s Eurostar Neo spacecraft design, which includes improvements in propulsion, thermal control, and electrical systems.
During the countdown, the Falcon 9 rocket was filled with kerosene and liquid oxygen propellants. The nine Merlin 1D engines on the first stage booster ignited, propelling the rocket and the Hotbird 13G satellite into space. After separation, the booster stage performed a series of maneuvers to return to Earth and successfully landed on the drone ship.
Hotbird 13G is equipped with plasma orbit-raising thrusters developed by Safran, which use xenon gas and electricity for propulsion. This fuel-efficient system allows for a smaller launch vehicle or additional payloads on the satellite. However, the orbit-raising process using electric propulsion takes longer than traditional rocket engines.
Once in geostationary orbit, Hotbird 13G will join its predecessor, Hotbird 13F, at 13 degrees east longitude. Both satellites will provide high-capacity satellite broadcasting to deliver over 1,000 TV channels to more than 160 million homes in Europe, the Middle East, and North Africa.
This launch marks SpaceX’s 51st mission of 2022 and is the second in a series of three Falcon 9 flights for Eutelsat this year. The next launch will carry the Eutelsat 10B communications satellite, designed for in-flight internet connectivity on airplanes.