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SpaceX Wins Intelsat Launch Contract

By Rich Smith - Mar 17, 2020 at 12:44PM

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In 2022, SpaceX will put its second Intelsat satellite in orbit.

Satellite communications company Intelsat (INTE.Q) has selected SpaceX to launch its newest advanced geostationary communications satellite (comsat), the "Intelsat 40e," atop a SpaceX Falcon 9 reusable rocket, the companies announced on Tuesday.  

When the satellite launches in 2022, says Intelsat Chief Services Officer Mike DeMarco, it "will join the Intelsat Epic high-throughput satellite fleet and integrated IntelsatOne ground network to provide our customers with the managed hybrid-connectivity they need in today's ever-changing world."

Artist's conception of Intelsat 40e satellite

Image source: Maxar Technologies.

This will be SpaceX's second launch for Intelsat, and will come five years after the successful 2017 launch of Intelsat's "35e" geostationary comsat. Historically, Intelsat has preferred to send up its satellites aboard rockets operated by SpaceX's European rival Arianespace. The Airbus (EADSY 2.96%) subsidiary launched for example Intelsat 37e in 2017, and Intelsat 39 last year.  

Like Intelsat 39 before it, Intelsat 40e will be manufactured by space technology firm Maxar Technologies (MAXR 3.29%). This latter company will be integrating into Intelsat's 40e NASA's Tropospheric Emissions: Monitoring of Pollution (TEMPO) payload, allowing the single satellite to perform missions for two separate customers, and helping to defray the cost of Intelsat building it.

Meanwhile for SpaceX, the ability to continue to win business from companies that at least nominally compete with it (Intelsat is a satellite communications firm, and SpaceX is building its own satellite internet broadband constellation -- Starlink) suggests that even knowing SpaceX may be a future competitor, isn't enough to dissuade potential customers from hiring its services.

Why? Because SpaceX rocket launches are just so darned cheap that its prices can't be beat.

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