SpaceX is getting ready to achieve another historic first on Monday April 27 when they’re scheduled to launch the country of Turkmenistan’s first ever commercial satellite.
The launch will take SpaceX’s Falcon 9 rocket higher above Earth’s surface than the launch on April 14 and will therefore test the rocket close to its maximum capacity.
Although one of SpaceX’s Falcon 9 rockets will launch the satellite, there will be no attempt to retrieve the rocket’s first stage for reuse by guiding it back to Earth to land on one of SpaceX’s floating platforms like it unsuccessfully tried on April 14.
If everything goes according to plan, at 6:14 pm ET, one of SpaceX’s Falcon 9 rockets will lift off out of Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida. If the launch is scrubbed, there is another chance to launch the following day, April 28.
SpaceX will livestream the event starting at 6 pm ET, 14 minutes before launch. Check out the feed below:
A first for Turkmenistan
While SpaceX will help the country achieve a notable aeronautical feat, it’s also arguably helping a government that has been criticised for curtailing freedom of information.
Turkemenistan is a small Turkic state in Central Asia with approximately 5 million residents and has been described by the Human Rights Watch as “one of the most closed and repressive countries in the world.”
The satellite, which the Turkmenistan government hired aerospace company Thales Alenia Space to design and build, will improve television and radio broadcast across the country. SpaceX has not had any direct contact with the government of Turkmenistan and has been working only with the satellite manufacturer, according to a report.
“We appreciate Thales’ confidence in our ability to safely deliver Turkmenistan’s first satellite to orbit,” said Gwynne Shotwell, SpaceX President and COO when SpaceX first announced the contract in 2013.
The satellite is designed to last for at least 15 years and will come in the wake of new laws restricting the country’s access to satellite communications from the outside world. In May,the government ordered residents in the country’s capital, Ashgabat, and surrounding suburbs to remove satellite dishes.
“Satellite television is the last lifeline to the outside world for people in Turkmenistan. The government should stop its strong-arm tactics to restrict freedom of expression and let people choose their own news and entertainment sources,” Rachel Denber of Human Rights Watch told Bay News 9.
A different kind of rocket
This event will mark the second SpaceX launch in April and their fifth launch of 2015. In order to transport the 9,900-pound satellite into orbit, SpaceX is using a different kind of Falcon 9 rocket.
This rocket does not have any landing legs and is therefore not designed to land for reuse.
The landing legs alone weigh about 4,600 pounds and without those extra pounds, the rocket can carry its heavy payload farther into space than it could with the legs, which will be necessary for this satellite.
Commercial satellites often circle Earth in higher orbits than the International Space Station, and Turkmenistan’s satellite is no exception. SpaceX will have to get the rocket to 22,000 miles above Earth’s surface — 10 times higher than the ISS.
To do this, the first stage of the Falcon 9 will have to exhaust all of its fuel, which means no fuel left over to attempt to land the rocket on SpaceX’s floating platform.
SpaceX’s next rocket landing attempt is scheduled for June 19.
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