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SpaceX Launches O3b mPOWER Satellites and Rideshare Mission in a Busy Weekend

By Rachel Jewett | November 13, 2023

      SpaceX launches the fifth and sixth satellites in SES’s O3b mPOWER constellation on Nov. 12. Photo: SpaceX

      SpaceX launched two O3b mPOWER satellites for SES, and a 90-payload rideshare mission in a busy weekend of Falcon 9 missions.

      SES confirmed that the fifth and sixth O3b mPOWER satellites were successfully launched in a Sunday mission from Cape Canaveral, Florida. SES expects to begin commercial service with O3b mPOWER in the second quarter of 2024. 

      “With the fifth and sixth O3b mPOWER satellites launched and going operational in the next few months, we are gearing up to deliver the high-performance connectivity services our customers need. By building resiliency into the network, we are confident our customers will be able to depend on us to deliver the reliable and secure connectivity required to run their operations,” said Ruy Pinto, CEO of SES. 

      SES is dealing with issues with the power modules on the first four satellites in orbit, and the satellites will have significantly less capacity available than expected. The operator recently announced it reworked its contract with manufacturer Boeing to upgrade five of the remaining satellites and add two new satellites to the constellation. SES and Boeing will share risk and CapEx on the additional satellites. 

      Separately, SpaceX launched its ninth dedicated smallsat rideshare mission on Saturday from Vandenberg Space Force Base in California, Transporter-9. The mission included 90 payloads, and SpaceX confirmed 86 out of 89 deployments. SpaceX said it may take customers time to provide additional information on the status payload status. 

      Rideshare integrator Exolaunch deployed 34 customer satellites, including two satellites for Foxconn, an electronics manufacturer that manufactures iPhones. Foxconn said in a statement that the two PEARL satellites are proof of concept for Low-Earth Orbit (LEO) satellite broadband communications and beyond 5G (B5G) capabilities. 

      “In the B5G and new space era, the launch of LEO satellites will become ever more cost-competitive and convenient. Foxconn’s first PEARL is meant to show we will be ready to meet the increase in demand for key components, sub-system, and assembly integration test, driving higher circulation and innovation in the new space industry,” said Jesse Chao Sr. Director, B5G Policy, Corporate Policy.

      Planet was a large customer on the mission. It included Pelican-1, the first tech demonstration satellite for Planet’s next-generation, high-resolution Pelican fleet, along with 36 SuperDoves satellites. 

      The mission also induced four new synthetic aperture radar (SAR) satellites for Iceye; 11 satellites for Spire including satellites for customers GHGSat, hiSky, Jacobs, and SNC; two satellites for Unseenlabs; two satellites for Open Cosmos; the first demonstration satellite for Rogue Space Systems; and the Ymir-1 satellite as part of a collaboration between AAC Clyde Space, Saab, and Orbcomm, and more.