SpaceX Falcon 9 launches Kacific satellite that will bring internet to isolated island nations


SpaceX launched its 13th mission of the year
Monday (Dec. 16) as a twice-flown Falcon 9 booster took to the skies for the third time
carrying a satellite for a Singapore-based startup and Japanese broadband provider. The SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket lit up the skies
over Florida’s Space Coast as it carried its payload, a heavyweight communications satellite,
into space from Space Launch Complex 40 here at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station. The powerful telecom craft lifted off from
Florida at 7:10 p.m. EST Monday after a smooth countdown. The hefty communications satellite built by
Boeing is on the way to a lofty perch more than 22,000 miles (nearly 36,000 kilometers)
over the Pacific Ocean, where the satellite will be especially beneficial to residents
in remote provinces and villages across the South Pacific, especially healthcare institutions
and schools. Many of the schools and hospitals throughout
the region are remote and therefore could rely on the coverage this satellite will provide
to ensure patients receive proper care and children have access to better education with
more access to online resources. In this video Engineering Today will discuss
this Startup launches broadband satellite on SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket Into Orbit to connect
Pacific islands. Let’s get into details. The SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket, propelled by a
first stage booster flown twice before, streaked through cloud layers over Cape Canaveral as
it turned eastward over the Atlantic Ocean and exceeded the speed of sound in the first
minute of the flight. The launch occurred just three days after
SpaceX test fired its veteran Falcon 9 booster. The star of this launch, a sooty and scorched
SpaceX Falcon 9, previously lifted the CRS-17 and CRS-18 cargo resupply missions to the
International Space Station earlier this year, May and July. Tonight’s flight marked the 13th of the year
for the California-based aerospace company, following a shiny new booster that delivered
a fresh batch of supplies to the space station just 11 days earlier. Following a standard launch profile, the first
stage shut down and separated two-and-a-half minutes into the mission and descended back
through the atmosphere. Approximately 8 minutes after launch, the
rocket’s first stage touched down on one of the company’s two drone ships, Of Course I
Still Love You, which was stationed in the Atlantic Ocean. Once back at the Florida launch base, the
booster — designed for up to 10 flights — could launch again. SpaceX has been recovering Falcon 9 and more
recently Super Heavy boosters since 2015 and has done 47 successful first stage recoveries
in total, but its fairing catching system is a much more recent introduction. SpaceX first controlled the descent of, and
recovered a fairing half in 2017 – but did so by dropping it into the ocean. It later began attempting to recover it using
a barge recovery ship to keep from having to fish it out of the sea, and managed to
do that successfully for the first time with one half of the two-part fairing used in a
SpaceX Falcon Heavy launch this past June. This attempt to catch the fairings was not
successful – SpaceX said on Twitter that both halves missed the waiting boats “narrowly,”
but added that recovery teams will still seek to pull them from the ocean and see about
re-using them on future missions. SpaceX re-flew a recovered fairing in November
for the first time, and Musk has said previously that re-use of this part could save SpaceX
as much as $6 million per mission, which is around 10% of the total cost of launch. The second stage, meanwhile, ignited its vacuum-rated
engine for two firings to inject the mission’s satellite payload — named JCSAT 18/Kacific
1 — into an elliptical transfer orbit stretching more than 12,600 miles (20,300 kilometers)
above Earth, on the way to a final operating position in geostationary orbit over the equator. The SpaceX Falcon 9 released its satellite
passenger 33 minutes after liftoff, and a live camera view from the second stage of
the rocket showed the JCSAT 18/Kacific 1 spacecraft flying away from the launch vehicle, back
dropped by the curvature of the Earth. Boeing officials confirmed the satellite radioed
its status to ground teams after arriving in orbit Monday night. JCSAT-18/Kacific-1 is a 6,800-kilogram condominium
satellite, or “condosat” from Boeing, equipped with distinct payloads for Kacific
and Sky Perfect JSAT Corporations, an established satellite operator based in Tokyo. For Sky Perfect JSAT, the JCSAT-18 payload
will provide Ku- and Ka-band capacity over large parts of the Asia-Pacific, including
Russia’s Far East. It is the 18th geostationary satellite in
the operator’s fleet, and second with high-throughput capacity, enabling higher speed broadband
services than traditional satellites. Kacific-1 is an all Ka-band payload with high-throughput
coverage designed for island nations that lack dedicated satellite coverage. Kacific, headquartered in Singapore, was founded
in 2013 by Christian Patouraux, then a 20-year satellite industry veteran with experience
in satellite engineering and business strategy development. “Our vision is very much to bridge the digital
divide, to drive economic development,” Patouraux said in a pre-launch media briefing
Monday. “It will be really a game-changer deep inside
society,” Patouraux said of Kacific 1. “And it will provide a public service that
will also connect all kinds of government services, not only schools and hospitals but
you can also think of connecting post offices delivering ID cards and passports — locally
inside villages — as well as police stations and fire stations.”” The continuous coverage would dramatically
improve the quality of life of those who call the region home — and it would be an added
perk for tourists. In one village alone, using the coverage currently
available, medical staff have been able to connect with doctors in bigger cities and
save lives, according to Patouraux. “Most people across the South Pacific have
access to iPads and smartphones, but are just waiting for the technology — meaning internet
service — to arrive to live better lives,” Patouraux said. Kacific has leased capacity on third-party
satellites to begin realizing its vision of beaming broadband connectivity to millions
of underserved people across the Asia-Pacific region. Now, after some financial maneuvering, loans
and equity fundraising, Kacific has its own satellite infrastructure in orbit. “It’s been six-and-a-half years of hard
work to get here, ‘The most difficult part was really to get financing in a project like
this.” According to Patouraux, Kacific invested more
than $200 million in developing its part of the JCSAT 18/Kacific 1 mission, including
Kacific’s share of the launch costs, satellite production costs, and ground systems. “It was a lot of grit, a bit of luck here
and there,” he said. After he founded Kacific, Patouraux initially
raised funding from friends and family, then began making connections with prospective
users of the company’s satellite broadband service. Kacific then issued a tender to build its
first satellite, and selected Boeing for the job in partnership with Sky Perfect JSAT. Kacific-1 is Kacific’s first satellite,
and almost didn’t happen because of difficulty attracting capital. Kacific ran into headwinds securing the funding
to pay Boeing for the new spacecraft due to a lapse in financing ability of the Export-Import
Bank of the United States. In the end, Patouraux said the company secured
loans to pay Boeing for the satellite. Earlier this month, Kacific announced it secured
$160 million in new financing led by the Asian Development Bank (ADB) and GuarantCo, an infrastructure
investment organization. “The support from GuarantCo, ADB, and private
investors will be pivotal in providing the long-term certainty that will allow Kacific
to transition seamlessly into operational mode. “It was really, really white-knuckle until
the end, but we managed to close that,” Patouraux said Monday. “We were really incentivized to close this
before launching.” Now that the spacecraft is in orbit. The engine burns will also move the satellite’s
orbit over the equator, where its orbital velocity will match the rate of Earth’s
rotation. About half an hour after liftoff, the SpaceX
Falcon 9 rocket deposited the satellite into an elliptical transfer orbit, where its on-board
engine will maneuver the satellite into a final geostationary orbit, more than 22,000
miles (35,000 km) above the equator. This orbit will allow the satellite to give
constant coverage to the Asia-Pacific area. Boeing engineers will oversee a series of
maneuvers using JCSAT 18/Kacific 1’s on-board main engine to circularize its orbit. The engine burns will move the satellite’s
orbit over the equator, where its orbital velocity will match the rate of Earth’s
rotation. During its planned 15-year mission, JCSAT
18/Kacific 1 will be parked at 150 degrees east longitude, giving the satellite an expansive
coverage zone stretching across the Asia-Pacific. Patouraux said region covered by Kacific’s
Ka-band payload is home to some 600 million people. “Connecting communities gives them access
to emergency healthcare, gives them access to evacuation,” said Patouraux. “They’re living in very precarious areas
of the world. The broadband access will provide critical
communications channels to the region which is often ravaged by natural disasters, such
as earthquakes, landslides, tsunamis, volcanic eruptions. The biggest obstacle to extending broadband
across the Asia-Pacific is one of topography: Broadband is delivered primarily by copper
or fiber optic cables, including some that stretch under the Atlantic Ocean. They’re expensive to install, so internet
service providers mostly target urban areas, where they can get the most bang for their
buck, while rural communities are often left out. In the Asia-Pacific region, where more than
80% of the population lives in rural areas, the lack of connectivity is glaring. “This is what Kacific is designed for specifically,”
Patouraux said. “It’s a high-throughput satellite is equipped
with 56 high-power beams that will provide mobile and broadband services from space. It’s transmitting over high-power Ka-band,
hence the name Kacific, Ka-band for the Pacific … And it has gateways to connect the satellite
to high-speed backbone Internet in Australia, in the Philippines and in Indonesia.” The satellite will provide Ka-band internet
coverage to 25 countries across the South Pacific. Kacific says its Ka-band payload will cover
a swath from Nepal in the west to French Polynesia in the east, and from the Philippines in the
north to New Zealand in the south. Users with good ground antennas will be able
to achieve download speeds of up to 50 to 100 megabits per second through Kacific’s
network. A few ground stations, called teleports, will
bounce Kacific-1’s signal to antennas, creating internet hot spots. At about $500 to $1,000 each, Patouraux said
the antennas may be too expensive for most people to install at their homes, but they’re
a perfect fit for schools, hospitals and community centers. Patouraux said that Kacific-1 aims to stream
high-speed, reliable, low-cost broadbandto rural and suburban areas. The focus is to get the satellite’s service
up and running and if all goes well and shareholders agree, there could eventually be a Kacific-2. “It would almost be silly not to try to
replicate that and do it in faster time with a better cost of capital,” he said. Patouraux said a Kacific-2 satellite would
augment Kacific-1 capacity while expanding westward across Asia and possibly Africa but
He did not give a timeline for Kacific-2.

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