SpaceX’s workhorse Falcon 9 rocket has secured three new geostationary satellite launch contracts from South Korea and the Middle East.
All three contracts – two from Arabsat and one from KT SAT – build off of successful relationships SpaceX has already built with both companies.
In 2017, SpaceX kicked off the first of several launches for South Korea with KT SAT’s Koreasat 5A mission. In 2020, SpaceX launched South Korea’s ANASIS II military communications satellite, built by Lockheed Martin and essentially thrown in as a bonus to secure an order for F-35 jets. Most recently, in August 2022, a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket sent South Korea’s first interplanetary spacecraft on its way to the Moon. The Korean Pathfinder Lunar Orbiter (KPLO) will attempt to enter orbit around the Moon as soon as December.
Now, KT SAT has announced plans to replace its existing Koreasat 6 spacecraft with a new satellite – Koreasat 6A – from Thales Alenia Space. A SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket will launch the 3.5-ton (~7700 lb) communications satellite to geostationary transfer orbit (GTO) no earlier than (NET) 2025.
One week after KT SAT’s announcement, Middle Eastern connectivity provider Arabsat announced that SpaceX will launch both of the company’s upcoming geostationary communications satellites. Built by Thales Alenia Space, a Falcon 9 rocket is scheduled to launch Arabsat 7A at a yet-to-be-determined time – likely around 2024 or 2025. Arabsat ordered the satellite in April 2022.
In April 2019, after substantial delays, SpaceX’s first Falcon Heavy Block 5 rocket lifted off on its first mission for a paying customer – Arabsat. The rocket successfully lofted the company’s large Arabsat 6A communications satellite to a supersynchronous geostationary transfer orbit with an apogee more than 90,000 kilometers (~56,000 mi) above Earth’s surface.
In the same announcement, Arabsat disclosed that SpaceX’s Falcon 9 workhorse will also launch BADR-8, a 4.5-ton (~10,000 lb) geostationary communications satellite built by Airbus. Ordered in August 2020, BADR-8 remains on track to launch in 2023.
Koreasat 6A, Arabsat 7A, and BADR-8 join approximately 90 other commercial Falcon launches planned between now and 2030, of which about 25 will carry geostationary satellites.