March 15, 2011

SpaceX, SES Announce Launch Agreement

Luxembourg-based SES, one of the world's leading providers of satellite communication and transmission services, announced Monday that it had reached a deal with privately owned SpaceX for a launch sometime in 2013 using the US firm's Falcon 9 rocket.

"The SES deal shows that even the most conservative commercial or government customers can have confidence flying their satellites on the Falcon 9 rocket," SpaceX chief executive Elon Musk said in a statement on the company's website.

SES, which owns market-leading satellite operators SES ASTRA and SES WORLD SKIES and has participation with Canada's Ciel and Mexico's QuetzSat, "is known for their low tolerance to risk and cautious approach in evaluating suppliers," Musk added.

The new deal complements SES's existing agreements with Arianespace and ILS, and will include an option for a second launch.

"After extensive due diligence of SpaceX's technical and operational expertise, we feel comfortable entrusting SpaceX with one of our satellites, thereby encouraging diversity in the launch vehicle sector and fostering entrepreneurial spirit in the space industry," SES chief executive Romain Bausch said in a statement.

SES is set to launch SES-8 in the first quarter of 2013 to respond to the strong demand for additional direct to home (DTH) capacity in Asia. SES-8, a medium-sized communications satellite, is currently under construction with Orbital Sciences Corp. (ORB). The satellite will be co-positioned with NSS-6. SES-8 will launch from SpaceX's Launch Complex 40 at Cape Canaveral, Florida.

SpaceX had a successful unmanned test launch in December. The Dragon capsule was carried by the Falcon 9 rocket.

NASA signed a 1.6-billion-dollar contract with SpaceX in December 2008 under the Commercial Orbital Transportation Services (COTS) program. The partnership will provide 12 spacecraft with cargo capacity of at least 20 tons for supplies to be delivered to the International Space Station through 2016.

The first cargo mission to the ISS is planned for 2011.

SpaceX develops, manufactures and launches a line of spacecraft that are increasingly becoming the next step in reliable space transportation, while effectively reducing the costs by a factor of ten. SpaceX has a diverse exhibit of launch capabilities, including the Falcon 9, which will deliver commercial and government satellites to orbit.

After the Shuttle fleet retires, the Falcon 9 and SpaceX's Dragon spacecraft will start shuttling cargo, including plants and animals, to and from the ISS for NASA. The ultimate goal of Falcon 9 and Dragon is to one day carry astronauts.


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