A Turkish-owned communications satellite will enter orbit from Cape Canaveral on Thursday night to open SpaceX’s 2021 launch schedule.
The Turkatsat 5A spacecraft, built by Airbus and owned by Turkish company Turkatsat, is set to take off from the SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket when the four-hour window opens at 8:28 pm on Thursday (0128 GMT Friday).
To cut through the busy schedule of more than 40 missions planned for SpaceX’s Falcon 9 and Falcon Heavy vehicles this year, the 229-foot-tall (70-meter) Falcon 9 rocket will take off from Pad 40 at Cape Canaveral Space Force Station. Space Coast and Wendenberg Air Force Base, California.
SpaceX completed 26 Falcon 9 missions in 2020, a record pace of launch activity for the commercial space company.
The inauguration on Thursday night is also the first of at least 40 rocket flights scheduled this year from Cape Canaveral and the neighboring Kennedy Space Center, including missions from SpaceX and the United Launch Alliance.
Forecasters from the 45th Weather Squadron of the U.S. Space Force forecast a 70% chance of good conditions during a four-hour window on Thursday night. The primary weather threat on Thursday is expected to be thick clouds and cumulus clouds associated with the cold front approaching Central Florida.
There is also a moderate risk of high-level wind shears that could exceed the Falcon 9’s structural limitations, forecasters said.
The weather team forecast mostly cloudy skies, 17 to 22 mph south winds, and a temperature of 68 degrees Fahrenheit at the start of Thursday.
In preparation for the final launch, SpaceX will also raise the Falcon 9 rocket vert on Pad 40 early Thursday, ending a 35-minute automatic countdown sequence. Computers will monitor the load of densified, super-chilled kerosene and liquid oxygen propellants in a two-stage rocket.
Nine Merlin 1D engines will power the rocket from the ground on the reusable first stage booster of the Falcon 9. The launcher will maneuver more than 22,000 miles (about 36,000 kilometers) above the Earth in an equatorial-orbital geological orbit en route from East Cape Canaveral to Turkestan 5A.
Following the standard centimeter profile, the first phase of the Falcon 9 will be separated from the upper phase of the rope in a one-and-a-half-minute flight, about 400 miles (650 kilometers) east of Cape Canaveral in the Atlantic Ocean before it begins landing.
While the first-stage booster also aims to land on a floating drone ship, two SpaceX ships are also on their way to downgrade the water to retrieve the two-part payload shroud of the Falcon 9.
The single-use upper stage of the Falcon 9, meanwhile, will burn two engines before the Turkest 5A releases the spacecraft into elliptical geostationary orbit half an hour after liftoff.
Weighing approximately 50,000 pounds (4,400 kilograms), Turkestan A will deploy its power-generating solar panels and enhance the decoration of the artifacts with plasma thrusters, which will extend the satellite’s orbit over 22,000 miles above the geological surface. At that itude, Turkestan 5 orbits the planet at the same rate as it orbits the earth.
The orbital phase of the mission will last about four months. Electric thrusters are more fuel efficient than traditional liquid-fuel rocket engines, but produce less thrust.
The satellite will enter service with the equator at 31 degrees east longitude, where its 42 Ku-band transponders will reach Turkey, Turkey, the Middle East, Europe, the vast rocks of Africa, the Mediterranean, the Aegean Sea and the Black Sea, the company says.
According to the company’s deputy general manager Hassan Hussein Artok, Turkest 5 will be the most powerful satellite in Turkestan’s fleet. It will also help secure Turkey’s frequency rights in the 31 degree east slot, where a Turkish-owned satellite has not operated since 2010.
In November 2017, after a meeting between SpaceX founder and CEO Elon Musk and Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, Turkestan signed an agreement with Airbus and SpaceX to build and launch the Turkst 5A and Turksat 5B satellites.
The Turkst 5B Satellite, which will host Ka-Band Communications payload, is due to launch from Cape Canaveral later this year.
“Our main focus is Turkey, so it’s focused on Turkey but the whole of Europe, most of North Africa, and we’re moving east to Kazakhstan. And in the African region, we also have most of the sub-Saharan Africa and South Africa, ”Artok said of the coverage area of Turkest 5A.
“We can provide satellite service to anyone in that coverage area,” he said. “It could be a data service, which means bringing data from one point to another, or it could be a TV broadcast service.”
While Turkey sells services to commercial customers, the main customer for the company is the Turkish government. Turkish satellites have supported a range of Turkish civilian and military operations.
“Turkst 5 will serve our customers, our government better at a better price,” Artock said.
“So it will be an important satellite for us and for our future.”
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