Atlas V Rocket Launches 2 Communications Satellites To Orbit


(CTN News) _ Tuesday evening (Oct. 4) an Atlas V rocket launched from Florida’s Space Coast carrying two commercial communications satellites into orbit.

SES-20 and SES-21 spacecraft were launched Tuesday at 5:36 p.m. Eastern Daylight Time (2136 GMT) from Cape Canaveral Space Force Station.

196-foot rocket hit all its marks early. For example, it jettisoned its three solid rocket boosters about 2 minutes after liftoff and threw away its payload fairing, which protected the two satellites during launch. At about T+4.5 minutes, the two stages of the Atlas V separated.

The rocket’s Centaur upper stage still has to power itself to the deployment destinations for SES-20 and SES-21 – near-circular, near-geosynchronous orbits.

The deployment of SES-20 will happen about 5 hours and 40 minutes after liftoff, and SES-21 will follow about 40 minutes later.

ULA says the spacecraft will use their onboard propulsion systems to circularize their orbits, sending them zipping around Earth about 22,300 miles above the equator.(opens in new tab).

SES-20 and SES-21 can begin providing television broadcasting service across the United States for Luxembourg telecom company SES once they’re established in those orbits.

“Built by Boeing with thousands of narrow and steerable beams and the ability to isolate interference sources, the two spacecraft provide SES and future customers the ability to extend a satellite’s coverage area and mission during its lifetime,” ULA representatives wrote in the mission description.

Two satellites can launch on a single rocket thanks to proven hardware and next-generation technology.

It’s been a busy week in space. SpaceX is launching the Crew-5 astronaut mission for NASA and another batch of its Starlink internet satellites on Wednesday (Oct. 5), as well as two telecom satellites for Intelsat on Thursday (Oct. 6).

On Thursday (Oct. 6), Rocket Lab will launch a satellite built by General Atomics as well as three other missions.