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SpaceX Launches Satellite the Size of a City Bus

By Kendall Russell | March 6, 2018
Falcon 9 vertical on the payload with its Hispasat 30W-6 payload. Photo: SpaceX.

Falcon 9 vertical on the payload with its Hispasat 30W-6 payload. Photo: SpaceX.

SpaceX marked its 50th Falcon 9 launch on Tuesday, successfully orbiting a city bus-sized satellite for Spanish operator Hispasat. The Hispasat 30W-6 satellite lifted off from Space Launch Complex 40 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida just after midnight EST.

At 6 metric tons, Hispasat 30W-6 is the largest Geostationary Earth Orbit (GEO) spacecraft SpaceX has ever launched, Chief Executive Officer (CEO) Elon Musk said on Twitter.

From its orbital position at 30 degrees west, the satellite will replace and broaden the capacity of its predecessor, Hispasat 30W-4. It carries 40 Ku-band transponders, up to 6 Ka-band beams and 10 C-band transponders. According to Hispasat, the satellite will aim its beams at the Mediterranean, Europe, Spain, northeast Africa and the Americas.

The configuration enables Hispasat to help bridge the digital divide in rural communities within North Africa, Latin America and the Iberian Peninsula in particular, the company stated. Furthermore, the satellite will strengthen the distribution of audiovisual content in Latin America, enabling access for more than 50 million users, and will offer connectivity for high-speed trains and maritime services in the Caribbean and Mediterranean.

The satellite also carries demonstration equipment for a Ka-band receiver based on photonics technology with modules designed by DAS Photonics and Tryo Aerospace. The photonics receiver demonstration replaces traditional microwave components with optical, solid-state components to demonstrate an integrated photonic solution. According to the satellite’s manufacturer SSL, in the future, this technology will enable enhanced payload performance, greater architecture flexibility, and Very High Throughput Satellite (VHTS) solutions.