SpaceX Launching Reused Falcon 9 Carrying Israeli Communications Satellite

SpaceX’s twice-flown Falcon 9 rocket will make its final launch Tuesday night. 

Weather permitting, the rocket is set to take off from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station Space Launch Complex 40 somewhere between 6:52 p.m. and 8:20 p.m. SpaceX will live stream the event starting 15 minutes before liftoff.

The reused rocket is carrying an Israeli communications satellite called Amos-17. The goal of the Spacecom-operated satellite, which utilizes Boeing tech, is to provide communications services to Africa as well as the Middle East and Europe.

The Amos-17 launch comes three months after SpaceX launched 60 internet satellites for its Starlink megaconstellation, which aims to provide low-cost, high-speed internet to all corners of the globe.

The Falcon 9 will need practically all of its fuel to get the 14,330-pound Amos-17 to the highest possible orbit, meaning there won’t be any fuel left for a return landing. As a result of the heavy payload, SpaceX stripped the rocket of its grid fins and landing legs in anticipation of the ocean splashdown. 

SpaceX was originally aiming for an August 3 launch, but there was a valve issue during a static test fire conducted two days earlier. The valve was replaced and SpaceX gave the all-clear following another static test fire on Saturday. 

The last time SpaceX went to ferry a satellite payload for Spacecom was back in September of 2016 when the Falcon 9 carrying Amos-6 exploded during an engine test. SpaceX offered Spacecom $50 million or a free launch in the future as compensation. The Israeli satellite operator opted for the free launch.

Pricing on SpaceX’s website shows that a Falcon 9 launch costs $62 million while a Falcon Heavy launch is $90 million. 

The company is now expanding its launch suite with its new “SmallSat Rideshare Program.” The program “will provide small satellite operators with regularly scheduled, dedicated Falcon 9 rideshare missions” that will cost $2.25 million for payloads up to 330 pounds and $4.5 million for payloads up to 660 pounds.

“SpaceX is committed to serving the commercial market as it grows and changes, and we believe we can address the needs of small satellite operators by offering reliable, cost-effective access to orbit through regularly scheduled, dedicated rideshare missions,” a company spokesperson said.

SpaceX has already released a preliminary launch timeline with Mission 1 sometime between Nov. 2020 and March 2021, Mission 2 in Q1 of 2022 and Mission 3 in Q1 of 2023. 

Ideally, small satellite operators will book well in advance – 12 months or more – but SpaceX is focusing on flexibility, so it will let providers book just six months before a launch for an additional fee. SpaceX will also allow passengers who run into delays to apply 100 percent of monies paid towards the cost of rebooking.

SpaceX has been hard at work trying to get crewed missions back on track following the Crew Dragon fire back in April.

NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine told reporters at the Paris Airshow that the timeline for a manned launch has shifted.

According to SpaceX, the company identified the “anomaly” as a faulty valve that allowed leaking fuel to come into contact with titanium.