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AsiaSat Secures Backup Option with Sea Launch
LONDON — Satellite fleet operator AsiaSat of Hong Kong has secured additional backup option for previously purchased launches aboard the SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket by booking a reservation with commercial launch services provider Sea Launch AG, Sea Launch and AsiaSat announced Nov. 28.
Under the agreement, AsiaSat will launch a future satellite aboard Bern, Switzerland-based Sea Launch’s floating platform stationed on the equator in the Pacific Ocean.
AsiaSat has purchased two launches aboard the Falcon 9 rocket built and operated by Space Exploration Technologies Corp. (SpaceX) of Hawthorne, Calif. The AsiaSat 6 and AsiaSat 7 satellites, both under construction by Space Systems/Loral of Palo Alto, Calif., are scheduled to launch in the first half of 2014 on separate Falcon 9 vehicles.
SpaceX has a busy manifest in the next two years as it works to introduce a new, higher-power Falcon 9 rocket and to satisfy the demands of its commercial customers and of NASA’s contract for cargo deliveries to the international space station.
SpaceX Chief Executive Elon Musk, in a speech to the Royal Aeronautical Society here Nov. 16, said production ramp-up of the new Falcon 9 is proceeding on schedule, but that satellite delays or other unplanned events are likely to limit the company to four or five Falcon 9 launches in 2013.
That would include a final flight of the current Falcon 9 and three, or perhaps four, launches of the new Falcon 9 version, Musk said. SpaceX’s published flight manifest shows about eight launches planned for 2013.
In June, AsiaSat contracted with International Launch Services (ILS) of Reston, Va., which markets Russia’s Proton heavy-lift vehicle, for the launch of one of the three satellites AsiaSat is planning: AsiaSat 6 and AsiaSat 8, both booked on Falcon 9, or AsiaSat 9, which has not yet been ordered.
The ILS contract included an option for the launch of a second of these three satellites.