Elon Musk’s, SpaceX, is a private space company. 2015 has been busy for SpaceX. In February, it had its first deep space mission, received a $1 billion grant from Google for a satellite internet project and has made several attempts to land the first reusable rocket, and all of it ended tragically. However, SpaceX has made it possible for Turkmenistan to have access to its own telecommunications systems.
April 27, SpaceX had a scheduled launch to place the Turkmenistan’s satellite-based telecommunications system into orbit with a 224 foot Falcon 9 rocket. The satellite system is now 22,000 miles into space. The satellite was deployed approximately 32 minutes after liftoff.
Turkmenistan rents the capacity for satellite communication from Russia. This launch is a critical step for Turkmenistan. The satellite is 9,000 pounds and will afford the country access to secure and independent telephone, internet and television services. The TurkmenAlem satellite will give Turkmenistan the ability to operate its own National System of Satellite Communications (NSSC). The satellite will be managed by the Turkmenistan National Space Agency. The agency is state run and was created to foster the development of a national communications system. President Gurbanguly Berdimuhamedow gave the final approval for the agency in 2011.
The Turkmenistan satellite was designed by the Italian and French owned, Thales Alenia Space. The satellite has been named the TurkmenAlem52E/MonacoSAT and it has a 15-16 year lifespan. It is a medium-class telecommunications platform. Two solar panels and an onboard battery powers the satellite. It has up to 10 kW of power.
The satellite was supposed to be launched on a Chinese CZ-3B/G2 booster. In June 2013, the launch operations were given to SpaceX instead. There had been changes made to the United States’ International Traffic and Arms Regulations, banning many U.S. made parts from being transported to China. This is why the launch had to be transferred to a United States launch provider. SpaceX was chosen to be the company to make it possible for Turkmenistan to have their own telecommunications system.
Originally, the launch was scheduled for March 21 but it was discovered that there was a possible issue with the helium tanks. The helium tanks were all from the same production line, and they were failing testing. However, the tanks onboard the Falcon 9 worked just as they were expected. However, as a precautionary measure, SpaceX reached out to Thales to change the launch date until after April 24. The April 27 date was set once the helium pressure system was inspected onboard the Falcon 9.
SpaceX performed a static fire engine test this weekend, which was successful, yet the weather delayed the launch. The forecast stood at a 60 percent favorability in Cape Canaveral, Florida. However, there was a 90-minute window that was used to make the launch possible. The Falcon 9 was originally scheduled for a 6:14PM ET lift off.
The weather delayed the SpaceX, Falcon 9 launch until after 7PM. The two-stage rocket was filled with Rocket Propellant-1 which is a refined kerosene and liquid oxygen mix. The rocket’s fueling will be three hours before the scheduled liftoff. The communications satellite is on top of the rocket and will be set into a geosynchronous orbit 22,000 miles above the equator.
12PM: SpaceX Falcon 9, the 224-foot rocket is at the Launch Complex 40 to prepare for a scheduled 6:14PM liftoff from Cape Canaveral.
4:15PM: The SpaceX rocket is being fueled. The countdown is still on track for its scheduled 6:14PM liftoff. The weather forecast is holding at the 60 percent odds of having acceptable weather during the 90-minute window.
7:03PM SpaceX Falcon 9 successfully launched from Cape Canaveral. Thanks to SpaceX it is now possible for Turkmenistan to have control of their own telecommunications system.
Even with the successful placement of the Turkmenistan satellite, SpaceX is still struggling with in-house issues. Recently, the U.S. Department of Labor investigated the Florida and Texas SpaceX facilities, and they are now being fined for safety violations again. In June 2014, SpaceX was fined $7,000 for an issue at the Texas rocket launch test facility. The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), received a report that when tie down straps were unavailable, an employee would have to ride in the utility trailer to hold down the foam. A Texas employee fell off the trailer and died. OSHA investigated two severe violations in October 2014 at the Florida SpaceX facility. That investigation resulted in a total of $10,400 in fines.
By Jeanette Smith