SpaceX launched a Falcon 9 rocket Wednesday from Cape Canaveral with a telecom satellite for Egypt’s Nilesat. The Falcon 9 lifted off with the Nilesat 301 telecom payload at 21:04 GMT, and the first stage booster landed on SpaceX’s drone ship in the Atlantic Ocean.
Nilesat 301 is destined for an operating position in geostationary orbit more than 22,000 miles (nearly 36,000 kilometres) over the equator at 7 degrees west longitude, where it will provide TV broadcast and internet services over Egypt and other parts of Africa and the Middle East. The spacecraft will use its own propulsion system for the final manoeuvres to reach its operational orbit.
Nilesat 301 was the seventh launch and landing for this Falcon 9 first stage, according to a SpaceX mission description. This is the first of up to six Falcon 9 rocket flights scheduled for June 2022.
The geostationary satellite launch market was once a lucrative business for launch providers, including SpaceX. But the satellite market has shifted to smaller spacecraft, including constellations flying in lower-altitude orbits, to beam broadband signals to consumers.
Built in France by Thales Alenia Space, Nilesat 301 will support Ultra HD television broadcasts and internet connectivity, replacing the Nilesat 201 spacecraft launched in 2010. The spacecraft is owned by Nilesat, a company controlled by Egyptian government organizations.
SpaceX operates the Starlink network, the world’s largest fleet of satellites, and other companies are in the process of developing and deploying their own constellations.
Sometime between July and September this year, Starlink expects to go live in Nigeria and Mozambique.
The SpaceX-owned service, which provides internet connectivity using thousands of satellites in space, announced on May 27 that it has received regulatory approvals from both countries. Nigeria gave Starlink two licenses that took effect on May 1 and will expire in 2027 and 2032. The service is registered as an entity in the Victoria Island area of Lagos state.
Yesterday, SpaceX founder and CEO Elon Musk said the company likely won’t take its Starlink branch public for another three to four years.