July 15, 2019

Timeline for Falcon 9’s launch of the Thaicom 8 satellite


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The Falcon 9 rocket’s fifth flight of the year will take off from Cape Canaveral on Thursday, heaving the Thaicom 8 communications satellite into orbit on an easterly trajectory from Florida’s Space Coast.

It will take about 32 minutes to inject the approximately 6,800-pound (3,100-kilogram) spacecraft into a highly elliptical geostationary transfer orbit on the way to the satellite’s final perch 22,300 miles (35,700 kilometers) at 78.5 degrees east longitude over the equator.

The 229-foot-tall (70-meter) Falcon 9 rocket is poised for launch from Complex 40 at 5:40 p.m. EDT (2140 GMT) Thursday at the opening of a 120-minute launch window.

The Thaicom 8 communications satellite, manufactured by Orbital ATK and based on the company’s GEOStar 2 platform, is kicking off a 15-year mission to ready to broadcast television signals and data services to clients in Thailand, India and Africa.

The timeline below outlines the launch sequence for the Falcon 9 flight with Thaicom 8. It does not include times for the descent and landing attempt of the first stage booster, a secondary objective.

SpaceX’s landing platform is positioned about 420 miles (680 kilometers) east of Cape Canaveral for the first stage landing attempt, which is expected around 9 minutes after liftoff. Exact times for the recovery maneuvers were not released by SpaceX.

Data source: SpaceX

T-0:00:00: Liftoff

After the rocket’s nine Merlin engines pass an automated health check, hold-down clamps will release the Falcon 9 booster for liftoff from Complex 40.
After the rocket’s nine Merlin engines pass an automated health check, hold-down clamps will release the Falcon 9 booster for liftoff from Complex 40.

T+0:01:10: Mach 1

The Falcon 9 rocket reaches Mach 1, the speed of sound.
The Falcon 9 rocket reaches Mach 1, the speed of sound.

T+0:01:17: Max Q

The Falcon 9 rocket reaches Max Q, the point of maximum aerodynamic pressure.
The Falcon 9 rocket reaches Max Q, the point of maximum aerodynamic pressure.

T+0:02:35: MECO

The Falcon 9’s nine Merlin 1D engines shut down.
The Falcon 9’s nine Merlin 1D engines shut down.

T+0:02:39: Stage 1 Separation

The Falcon 9’s first stage separates from the second stage moments after MECO.
The Falcon 9’s first stage separates from the second stage moments after MECO.

T+0:02:46: First Ignition of Second Stage

The second stage Merlin 1D vacuum engine ignites for an approximately 6-minute burn to put the rocket and SES 9 into a preliminary parking orbit.
The second stage Merlin 1D vacuum engine ignites for an approximately 6-minute burn to put the rocket and Thaicom 8 into a preliminary parking orbit.

T+0:03:37: Fairing Jettison

The 5.2-meter (17.1-foot) diameter payload fairing jettisons once the Falcon 9 rocket ascends through the dense lower atmosphere. The 43-foot-tall fairing is made of two clamshell-like halves composed of carbon fiber with an aluminum honeycomb core.
The 5.2-meter (17.1-foot) diameter payload fairing jettisons once the Falcon 9 rocket ascends through the dense lower atmosphere. The 43-foot-tall fairing is made of two clamshell-like halves composed of carbon fiber with an aluminum honeycomb core.

T+0:08:56: SECO 1

The second stage of the Falcon 9 rocket shuts down after reaching a preliminary low-altitude orbit. The upper stage and SES 9 begin a coast phase scheduled to last more than 18 minutes before the second stage Merlin vacuum engine reignites.
The second stage of the Falcon 9 rocket shuts down after reaching a preliminary low-altitude orbit. The upper stage and Thaicom 8 begin a coast phase scheduled to last more than 18 minutes before the second stage Merlin vacuum engine reignites.

T+0:27:07: Second Ignition of Second Stage

The Falcon 9's second stage Merlin engine restarts to propel the SES 9 communications satellite into a supersynchronous transfer orbit.
The Falcon 9’s second stage Merlin engine restarts to propel the Thaicom 8 communications satellite into a geosynchronous transfer orbit.

T+0:28:20: SECO 2

The Merlin engine shuts down after a short burn to put the SES 9 satellite in the proper orbit for deployment. SpaceX has programmed the engine to burn until the second stage's propellant tanks are nearly empty instead of timing the engine cutoff to put the SES 9 spacecraft into a specific orbit. The adjustment allows the rocket to put SES 9 into the highest orbit possible.
The Merlin engine shuts down after a short burn to put the Thaicom satellite in the proper orbit for deployment.

T+0:31:56: Thaicom 8 Separation

The SES 9 satellite separates from the Falcon 9 rocket in an orbit with a predicted high point of about 39,300 kilometers (24,400 miles), a low point of 290 kilometers (180 miles) and an inclination of 28 degrees. Due to the decision to burn the second stage nearly to depletion, there is some slight uncertainty on the orbital parameters based on the exact performance of the launcher.
The Thaicom 8 satellite separates from the Falcon 9 rocket in a geostationary transfer orbit. SpaceX and Thaicom have not released the exact orbit targeted on this launch.

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Follow Stephen Clark on Twitter: @StephenClark1.


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