SpaceX's biggest test will happen Monday with its first geostationary transfer mission. The updated Falcon 9 rocket will launch a commercial satellite into geostationary transfer orbit at 80,000 kilometers, or 49,709.7 miles from the surface of the Earth. SES-8 is a telecommunications satellite and marks SpaceX's first commercial mission.
Early tests of the Falcon 9, including a static fire of the rocket's nine engines last week, have been successful leading up to Monday's launch. The Falcon 9 rocket carrying the SES-8 satellite will launch from Cape Canaveral, Fla., at 5:37 p.m. EST, and the live stream begins at 5 p.m. EST. The telecommunications satellite was ordered by SES World Skies and was manufactured by Orbital Sciences Corp. According to SES, "The high performance beams will support rapidly growing markets in South Asia and Indo-China, as well as provide expansion capacity for DTH, VSAT and government applications."
The revamped Falcon 9 rocket had its first test in September, launching the Canadian Space Agency’s Cassiope satellite into low-Earth orbit. The rocket is equipped with new Merlin 1D engines, which offer a 56 percent increase in thrust over the Merlin 1C. The Falcon 9 is capable of carrying a 10,692 payload into GTO.
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SpaceX already has a partnership with NASA, and the launch could lead to more commercial launches in the future. The SES-8 launch could also be the start of a very busy winter for Elon Musk's company. The Thaicom-6 television satellite, the second commercial launch, has an expected launch date of Dec. 12, although that could be pushed back to 2014, reports NASASpaceflight.com. SpaceX's next resupply mission, its third for NASA, to the International Space Station was initially scheduled for Dec. 9 but was pushed back to Feb. 22, 2014. The company's Falcon 9 and Dragon spacecraft recently passed a NASA safety review, an important step leading up to the launch of humans into low-Earth orbit.
The SpaceX SES-8 launch live stream can be viewed below, beginning at 5 p.m. EST, 2 p.m. PST.