Successful launch of Falcon 9 with ABS-3A and Eutelsat 115 West B satellites!

On March 2, 2015, SpaceX conducted successful launch of its Falcon 9 with ABS-3A and Eutelsat 115 West B satellites into a supersynchronous transfer orbit from Space Launch Complex 40 at Cape Canaveral.

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Official mission patch for ABS-3A / Eutelsat 115 West B mission

On March 2 (UTC), 2015, SpaceX conducted successful launch of its Falcon 9 v.1.1 launch vehicle with ABS-3A and Eutelsat 115 West B telecommunications satellites into a supersynchronous transfer orbit from Space Launch Complex 40 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, Florida. The mission was conducted for Asia Broadcast Satellite (ABS) and Eutelsat satellite services providers, and already became the third mission SpaceX conducted in 2015, after CRS-5 (January 10) and DSCOVR (February 11) missions.

Launch of Falcon 9 with ABS-3A and Eutelsat 115 West B from Cape Canaveral
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Both ABS-3A and Eutelsat 115 West B spacecraft were made by Boeing based on the 702SP (small platform) satellite bus, marking the launch debut for this platform, which uses only ion thrusters to power the satellite on its way to orbital position and maintanance there for up to two decades. Moreover, the mission is notable for being the first one when commercial communications satellites in orbit use all-electric propulsion, which provides significant weight savings comparing to widely used before chemical propulsion.

Eutelsat 115 West B spacecraft weighs 2,205 kg and equipped with 12 C-band and 34 Ku-band transponders, connected to four service areas to provide communications services in the Americas. The satellite is to replace Eutelsat 115 West A, operating at 114.9° West. It will focus on serving clients providing data services, including broadband access, cellular backhaul, VSAT solutions and social connectivity. Initially, Eutelsat 115 West B was named Satmex 7, but after acquisition of Satmex by Eutelsat in 2014 the satellite was renamed.

ABS-3A and Eutelsat 115 West B satellites at Boeing facility. Credit: Boeing
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ABS-3A, the lighter of the two satellites (weighs 1,954 kg), hosts 24 C-band and 24 Ku-band transponders, replacing and extending communications coverage over Europe, the Americas, Middle East and Africa at 3° West, currently provided by ABS-3 satellite that was launched in 1997 and is nearing the end of its life. The satellite will support VSAT services, TV distribution, IP trunking, cellular backhaul and maritime services on the global basis.

According to SpaceflightNow, Eutelsat and ABS paid less than $30 million a piece to launch their satellites on the Falcon 9, which is extremely low price for a geostationary transfer orbit mission at the communications satellites launch market. Both satellites, using electric propulsion for in-orbit raising, need near half-year to reach their orbital position and are expected to enter service in the fourth quarter of 2015.

Falcon 9 payload fairing for ABS-3A and Eutelsat 115 West B mission. Credit: SpaceX
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Interesting to note that the next mission both for ABS and Eutelsat will replicate the current one - Falcon 9 is scheduled to launch all-electric Eutelsat 117 West B and ABS-2A satellites in the end of 2015. The former will be located at 117° West to boost capacity for Latin America broadcast markets, and the latter, co-locating with ABS-2 at the prime location at 75° East, will have 48 transponders on 5 high-powered Ku-band beams to serve India, South East Asia, Russia, Sub-Sahara Africa, and GCC/Afghanistan region. The next mission for SpaceX is planned for the end of March 2015, when TurkmenSat-1 is to be launched by Falcon 9 from Cape Canaveral.

P.S. What about SpaceX' reusability attempts? Here is what Elon Musk tweeted about it:

Next landing attempt will be 3rd launch from now. Tonight's flight and following one will not have enough propellant. Reason is hard left turn needed for orbit plane change to equatorial. Nothing to react against in space, so can only turn under thrust. Elon Musk, CEO of SpaceX

It should be noted that '3rd launch from now' will be the CRS-6 mission to deliver another Dragon cargo spaceship to the International Space Station, scheduled for April 2015.

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