Saturday, July 20, 2024

SpaceX launches Turkey’s first domestically-built communications satellite

A SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket on Monday launched Turkey’s first domestically-built communications satellite, a powerful relay station designed to carry secure military traffic within Turkish borders while providing expanded commercial services across India, Thailand, Malaysia and Indonesia.

“We have just launched our domestic communication satellite Türksat 6A into space,” Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğa said on social media. “We have witnessed another source of pride for our country and our nation. More than 81 percent of the subsystems, satellite ground stations and software in the 6A project, which is of great importance for the future of our country in space, have been produced by Turkey with national resources.”  

Abdulkadir Uraloglu, Turkish minister of Transportation and Infrastructure, said Turkey joins an exclusive club of only 11 nations capable of building high-tech communications satellites. In a pre-launch post on social media, he wrote in Turkish, “Türksat 6A will be the symbol of our independence in space and our unity on Earth and in the sky.”

A SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket thunders away from pad 40 at the Cape Canaveral Space Force Station, boosting Turkey’s first domestically produced communications satellite into orbit.

Michael Cain/Spaceflight Now

Liftoff from pad 40 at the Cape Canaveral Space Force Station came at 7:30 p.m. EDT, a little more than two hours late because of threatening weather. The first stage, making its 15th flight, propelled the rocket out of the lower atmosphere, then flew itself to a successful landing on a SpaceX barge stationed several hundred miles to the east in the Atlantic Ocean.

The second stage completed two firings of its single engine, releasing the Türksat 6A satellite into a highly elliptical “transfer” orbit 35 minutes after liftoff.

The satellite’s onboard thrusters will be used in the coming days to circularize the orbit 22,300 miles above the equator at 42 degrees east longitude. At that altitude, satellites take 24 hours to complete one orbit and appear stationary in the sky, allowing the use of fixed ground antennas on the ground.

In orbital darkness over Africa, the Turksat 6A satellite drifts away from the Falcon 9’s second stage after a problem-free climb to orbit.

SpaceX webcast

Türksat 6A, operated by Türksat A.Ș., is equipped with 16 Ku-band transponders, along with four held in reserve. It also is equipped with two active X-band transponders and one spare. Those three are reserved for domestic Turkish military use while the Ku-band transponders will support commercial services.

Using earlier satellites purchased abroad, “we cover Europe, the Middle East, the Turkic nations, parts of East Asia and a significant portion of Africa, mostly North Africa,” Uraloglu said in a news release.

“Turksat 6A will increase satellite coverage, as it will cover India, Thailand, Malaysia and Indonesia, increasing our coverage of approximately 3.5 billion people to around five billion.”

The satellite has a design life of 15 years.

As for SpaceX, the launching marked the company’s 68th Falcon 9 launch so far this year and its 353rd overall. The California rocket builder expects to launch more than 140 Falcon-family rockets this year, a pace unrivaled in the commercial launch industry.

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