SpaceX’s busy week

Falcon 9 AsiaSat 8 launch

A Falcon 9 v1.1 rocket lifts off from Cape Canaveral, Florida, on August 5, carrying the AsiaSat 8 satellite. (credit: SpaceX)

Early Tuesday morning, SpaceX performed the latest launch of its Falcon 9 v1.1 rocket, placing the AsiaSat 8 satellite into orbit. While the launch was originally scheduled for 1:25 am EDT (0525 GMT), a problem with the vehicle’s first stage—never explained in detail by SpaceX—pushed the launch back towards the end of an unusually long launch window. The problem was resolved, though, and the Falcon 9 lifted off at 4:00 am EDT (0800 GMT), releasing the AsiaSat 8 satellite into geostationary transfer orbit.

While SpaceX didn’t issue a press release about the launch, AsiaSat did, confirming the launch was successful and that the Space Systems Loral-built satellite was operating normally. The launch is the first of two back-to-back missions for AsiaSat: a second Falcon 9 will launch AsiaSat 6 towards the end of the month. (This launch demonstrated a three-week turnaround between launches, so assuming that can be maintained, another launch at the end of the month is feasible.)

Unlike the previous two launches, SpaceX did not attempt to “land” the first stage in the ocean, citing the need to reserve the rocket’s performance for the payload. SpaceX CEO Elon Musk did tweet that they did relight the first stage’s engines after stage separation, though:

That launch took place less than a day after SpaceX confirmed it eventually shift commercial launches like this one from Texas. Gov. Rick Perry announced that SpaceX has agreed to build its planned commercial launch complex on the coast of the Gulf of Mexico east of Brownsville. That announcement was expected after the FAA completed an environmental review of the proposed spaceport and gave its OK last month for the project to proceed.

Texas is providing a relatively modest amount of funding for the project: it will provide $2.3 million from the Texas Enteprise Fund, plus $13 million from a separate Spaceport Trust Fund to Cameron County to support infrastructure work needed for the spaceport. The release from Perry’s office cites “$85 million in capital investment into the local economy” from the spaceport, suggesting that SpaceX will provide the bulk of that funding for the project.

And there was a smaller development for SpaceX as well this week: a new landlord. Chambers Street Properties announced it was buying the building that serves as SpaceX’s headquarters in Hawthorne, California, for $46.7 million. SpaceX leases the building under an agreement that runs through January 2023, and there’s no indication that the sale would affect the company in any significant way.

1 comment to SpaceX’s busy week

  • Dick Eagleson

    I heard one of the voices on the audio track of the webcast of this launch say something like “1st stage re-ignition successful” at some point during the main 2nd stage burn. Good to see SpaceX always wringing the last possible drop of new data out of every mission.

    About the spaceport in Brownsville and the Texas government money; it is my understanding that the area in question either has no extant water service or that the service is insufficient to the needs of a spaceport. Could be the various Texas government entities involved have agreed to pony up for bigger mains and/or an on-site reservoir big enough to handle sound dampening for a Falcon Heavy launch.

    A sale-leaseback deal for one’s HQ building is a time-tested way for a corporation to boost cash flow. Once a company is well enough established that it represents a minimal risk going forward, there is no shortage of real estate outfits and/or banks eager to do such deals. They’re less risky than spec-building comparable facilities, involve no construction lead-time and result in money coming in to the lessor right away. All of these pluses are attractive, especially in a soft commercial real estate market like Southern California’s. I’m thinkiing Elon was able to negotiate a very sweet deal.

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