Powerful Arab League communications satellite ready for night launch

This is an artist's conception of ARABSAT in space. Image courtesy of Airbus Defense and Space
1 of 4 | This is an artist's conception of ARABSAT in space. Image courtesy of Airbus Defense and Space

CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla., May 23 (UPI) -- A powerful communication relay satellite for the 21-member Arab League is scheduled for launch Tuesday from Cape Canaveral Space Force Station in Florida. weather permitting.

SpaceX plans to carry ARABSAT BADR-8 satellite into a geosynchronous transfer orbit aboard a Falcon 9 rocket from Launch Complex 40, with a 127-minute window that opens at 11:25 p.m. EDT.


However, forecasters have predicted a 70% chance of a postponement because of heavy clouds and lightning in the area. A backup opportunity exists Wednesday at the same time, SpaceX said.

The two-stage rocket will carry the satellite 22,300 miles above Earth to boost telecommunications between countries in Europe, Middle East, Africa and central Asia.

The satellite is provided with considerable transponders for satellite TV reception and communications in the so-called KU and C bands.

Once at its final destination, Arabsat will match Earth's rotation of one orbit every 24 hours. Experts call that a geostationary orbit, which the satellite will take four to five months to reach. That orbit is standard for communication satellites.

Arabsat was built by Airbus Defense and Space in Toulouse, France. It weighs 4.9 tons and uses innovative electric propulsion, a technique that provides a minute amount of thrust -- more than acceptable, given its expected operational life of 15 years at a minimum.


The new satellite platform, also known as core, provides power, propulsion and other crucial elements of spacecraft functions. It carries electric propulsion thrusters that make it ideal for use on most launch vehicles, given its variety of capabilities.

The vehicle is part of Airbus' new generation of optical communication in space technology and will be integrated with future, highly robust anti-jamming devices.

To maneuver to its final orbital destination, Arabsat is equipped with ion thrusters as part of its electric propulsion technology. Prototypes have flown in space before.

If weather cooperates, and all works well Tuesday night, the Falcon 9 and its payload will reach a maximum speed of 17,400 miles per hour.

The first stage booster, which has been used 12 times previously, is to return to Earth and land on the drone ship Just Read the Instructions in the Atlantic Ocean off Florida and sent back to SpaceX facilities for refurbishment.

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