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Sunday, February 25, 2024

SpaceX launches powerful Indonesian communications satellite

SpaceX launched a powerful Indonesian communications satellite Sunday, the linchpin in a $550 million project to provide high-speed internet access to schools, medical centers and thousands of public and government facilities across the island nation.

Using a first stage making its 12th flight, the Falcon 9 rocket roared to life at 6:21 p.m. EDT and shot away from pad 40 at the Cape Canaveral Space Force Station, arcing to the east over the Atlantic Ocean and quickly disappearing from view.

After jettisoning the first stage, which flew itself to a pinpoint landing on an offshore droneship, the second stage’s single engine fired twice to reach the planned elliptical deploy orbit, releasing the 10,100-pound SATRIA satellite to fly on its own about 37 minutes after launch.

Built by Thales Alenia Space, the satellite will use onboard ion thrusters to circularize its orbit at an altitude of 22,300 miles above the equator at 126 degrees east longitude.

Satellites at that geosynchronous altitude take 24 hours to complete one orbit, rotating in lockstep with Earth to appear stationary in the sky. That allows the use of fixed antennas on the ground, greatly simplifying the infrastructure needed to send and receive data.

SATRIA is a public-private project between the government of Indonesia and a consortium led by satellite operator PT Pasifik Satelit Nusantara, or PSN.

With a throughput of 150 gigabytes per second, SATRIA will connect some 94,000 schools, nearly 50,000 village offices, other government facilities and thousands of hospitals and medical facilities across the vast archipelago, the fourth most populous country in the world.

Going into Sunday’s launch, Indonesia relied on five domestic communications satellites and and four “foreign” relay stations with a combined 50 gigabytes of telecommunications bandwith.

“With a capacity of 150 Gbps, (SATRIA) can provide more than three times the combined national capacities that are currently in use,” Adi Rahman Adiwoso, chief executive officer of PSN, was quoted by SpaceTechAsia. “We are confident that SATRIA can be the solution to the digital gap that still exists in Indonesia.”

The satellite is designed to operate for at least 15 years.

Sunday’s launch was SpaceX’s 41st Falcon-family flight so far this year, the fifth this month and the company’s 245th overall, including five Falcon 1 rockets, six Falcon Heavies and one Super Heavy-Starship.

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