Wednesday, January 31, 2018

Gorgeous Blastoff of GovSat-1 on ‘Flight-Proven’ SpaceX Falcon 9 from Florida’s Spaceport: Photos

SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket carrying GovSat-1/SES-16 lifts off at 4:25 p.m. EST from Space Launch Complex 40 (SLC-40) on Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, Florida to geostationary transfer orbit on Jan. 31, 2018.  Credit: Ken Kremer/

CAPE CANAVERAL AIR FORCE STATION, FL – This afternoon lucky spectators witnessed a truly gorgeous blastoff of the unique GovSat-1 civilian/military satellite on a ‘flight-proven’ SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket on Wednesday, Jan. 31 – with vastly improved and truly serene weather conditions compared to the gloomy weather overhanging Florida during yesterday’s originally targeted launch opportunity.

Liftoff of the recycled single stick Falcon 9 carrying GovSat-1 took place right at the opening of the launch window s now scheduled for Wednesday, Jan. 31, 2018 at 4:25 p.m. EST (2125 GMT) from seaside Space Launch Complex-40 (SLC-40) on Cape Canaveral Air Force Station.

“Impressive to finally see #GovSat1 on its way to orbit,” tweeted Xavier Bettel, the Prime Minister of Luxembourg.  

“This is the beginning of a new experience for @GovSat is strengthening the position of Luxembourg as a key player in the space sector and contributes to a diversification of our economy.

The rocket soared off pad 40 with a bright flash of light and a mounting crescendo of nine roaring Merlin 1 D engines producing 1.7 million pounds of liftoff thrust.  

It soon arced over eastwards to the African continent. 

The payload separated from the second stage 33 minutes after launch as planned. 
GovSat-1 was developed as a joint venture in a public-private partnership between the Government of Luxembourg and satellite operator SES. 

The launch team had to scrub the launch for 24 hours in order to enable technicians to fix a balky transducer discovered in the second stage only some 90 minutes prior to T-Zero.

The Falcon 9 carrying GovSat-1 soared to orbit under picture perfect skies, with modestly warm temperatures and virtually no winds. In marked contrast to yesterdays (Jan. 30) gloomy clouds and extremely brisk, howling and threatening winds. 

The strong gusts from both ground winds and upper altitude winds would very likely have scrubbed the launch anyway, even if it had proceeded absent the forced postponement due to a technical glitch.

Check out our gallery of new photos of blastoff of GovSat-1.

SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket carrying GovSat-1/SES-16 lifts off at 4:25 p.m. EST from Space Launch Complex 40 (SLC-40) on Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, Florida to geostationary transfer orbit on Jan. 31, 2018.  Credit: Ken Kremer/

The weather forecast was for over 90% favorable conditions at launch time vs. only 40% favorable yesterday, on Tuesday, Jan. 30.

The two stage 229-foot-tall (70-meter-tall) SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket will deliver GovSat-1/SES-16 to a supersynchronous transfer orbit for GovSat – the SES and Luxembourg government joint venture.

GovSat-1, also known as SES-16, is the first satellite of GovSat. It is uniquely designed for exclusive use by governments and institutions – including military, humanitarian and maritime users.

GovSat-1 dignitaries at Space Launch Complex 40  this morning posing with SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket. SES CEO Karim Michel Sabbagh, Deputy Prime Minister of Luxembourg Etienne Schneider, His and Her Royal Highness the Duke and Duchess of Luxembourg, Prime Minister of Luxembourg Xavier Bettel and CEO of GovSat Patrick Biewer.   Credit: Ken Kremer/

The highly flexible payload featuring advanced encryption and anti-jamming capabilities.

The over 4.5 ton GovSat-1/SES-16 communications satellite launching Wednesday is a 50:50 joint venture between the Government of Luxembourg and the commercial firm SES, the world’s leading satellite operator.

SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket carrying GovSat-1/SES-16 is poised for liftoff at pad 40 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station.  Launch targeted for Jan. 31, 2018.  Credit: Ken Kremer/

The multi-mission satellite was built by prime contractor Orbital ATK. It has a design lifetime of 15 years of operation in geostationary orbit. The spacecraft has a launch mass of 4,230 kg (9326 lb).

“GovSat-1 has a diverse mix of transponder sizes in terms of bandwidth per transponder, offering in total 68 transponder-equivalent units of 36 MHz,” according to SES. 

“The highly flexible and resilient GovSat-1 payload features advanced security capabilities and uses dedicated frequencies in X-band and military Ka-band. GovSat-1 is equipped with six high-powered fully steerable spot beams, a high-power X-band Global beam, and features sixty-eight transponder equivalent units in total.”
GovSat-1 will be located at the 21.5 degrees East orbital slot. 

It will serve Europe, the Middle East and Africa, including substantial maritime coverage over the Mediterranean and Baltic seas, and the Atlantic and Indian Oceans.

Watch for Ken’s continuing onsite coverage of SpaceX Falcon 9 & Heavy, NASA,  ULA and more space mission reports direct from the Kennedy Space Center and Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, Florida.

Stay tuned here for Ken's continuing Earth and Planetary science and human spaceflight news: – – twitter @ken_kremer - ken at

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