SpaceX launches the second pair of O3b mPower satellites

Tampa, Fla. — SpaceX launched a second pair of O3b mPower satellites April 28 for SES, and is now just one launch away from bringing its next-generation broadband constellation in medium Earth orbit (MEO) online.

The satellites lifted off at 6:12 p.m. aboard a Falcon 9 from Space Force Station Cape Canaveral in Florida, clearing up threats of bad weather that delayed the launch of SpaceX’s Falcon Heavy at the Cape yesterday.

The first stage of the Falcon 9 booster, which previously supported a manned flight to the International Space Station, also successfully landed on an unmanned ship in the Atlantic Ocean shortly after its launch for reuse.

SES confirmed that it had successfully established communications with both satellites after launch. It will now take several more months for the two satellites to independently reach their final positions in the MEO using their all-electric propulsion.

The first pair of O3b mPower satellites launched by SpaceX on Dec. 16 have reached their target locations, according to SES, though they still need to complete health checks before entering service.

There are 11 Boeing satellites in the initial O3b mPower system, all with SpaceX launch contracts, but SES said it only needs six to begin providing services that promise 10 times greater throughput than the current MEO constellation.

SpaceX is scheduled to launch another pair of satellites before the end of June, which will keep SES on track to begin commercial O3b mPower services in the third quarter of this year.

Each O3b mPower satellite is designed to scale from tens of megabits per second of throughput to several gigabits per second, nearly 10 times the first generation of 20 O3b satellites at MEO.

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Customers who have signed up for O3b mPower to date include cloud services provider Microsoft, cruise operator Princess Cruises, Telcos Claro Brasil, Vodafone Cook Islands, CNT Ecuador and Orange of France.

The government of Luxembourg, where SES is headquartered, announced plans in February to acquire Energy from O3b mPower in a 10-year deal worth 195 million euros ($215 million), subject to parliamentary approval.

Weather forecasts at one point predicted only a 20% chance of good conditions for SpaceX’s April 28 launch of O3b mPower.

SpaceX was scheduled to make another attempt to launch ViaSat-3 using the Falcon Heavy from a nearby launchpad at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center at 8:26 p.m. EDT on April 28, at the end of a 57-minute window, but aborted the launch at T-59 seconds. For reasons not disclosed.

SpaceX said the next launch opportunity for this mission is April 29 at 8:26 PM ET. The mission also includes two payloads: a communications cube from Washington-based Gravity Space and the first large-scale satellite built by Astranis in California.

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