Blog about satellites: launches, operations, studies, fall.

The Falcon Heavy blasting off carrying the Arabsat-6A satellite (Photo courtesy SpaceX)

It was afternoon in Florida when SpaceX launched its Falcon Heavy rocket from Cape Canaveral on its first commercial mission. The most powerful rocket in activity launched the Arabsat-6A satellite, which after about 34 minutes separated from the rocket’s last stage entering a transit orbit from where it started the maneuvers that will take it towards a geostationary orbit within a bit more than two weeks.

GomX-4B (Image ESA–G. Porter, CC BY-SA 3.0 IGO)

ESA has announced the success of the mission of its GomX-4B nanosatellite in testing new miniaturized technologies that allow really tiny satellites to navigate in space thanks to tiny liquid butane propellers and the positioning system called star tracker to use instruments such as HyperScout, a hyperspectral camera. So far, CubeSat nanosatellites were normally devoid of propulsion systems so this one opens a new era by proving that there are cases in which a shoebox-sized satellite can do the job that until now was the prerogative of satellites hundreds of times more massive with enormously lower costs.

The Falcon 9 rocket Blasting off for its SSO-A SmallSat Express mission (Image courtesy SpaceX)

It was morning in California when SpaceX started a new record mission with the launch from the Vandenberg base of a Falcon 9 rocket whose first stage was on its third flight. Everything worked well, including the third controlled landing. In the meantime, the second stage brought a group of 64 small satellites into orbit and within about half an hour they were put into a Sun-synchronous orbit, hence the name SSO-A SmallSat Express mission. For SpaceX it was the 19th mission of the year, passing the 18 completed in 2017.