SpaceX Falcon 9 launches Intelsat satellite with NASA TEMPO Instrument

SpaceX Falcon 9 launches Intelsat satellite with NASA TEMPO Instrument

On Friday, April 7, SpaceX launched the Intelsat 40e communications satellite that is designed to beam internet to airplanes and cruise ships. The Intelsat 40e satellite is also hosting the NASA Tropospheric Emissions: Monitoring of Pollution (TEMPO) instrument onboard, which is designed to monitor Earth’s atmosphere pollutants. Forecasters will use the satellites' data to predict air quality in cities across North America. The flight-proven Falcon 9 rocket lifted off at 12:30 a.m. ET from Space Launch Complex-40 at the Cape Canaveral Space Force Station in Florida to propel the payloads to a Geosynchronous transfer orbit.

The Falcon 9 first-stage booster that launched the Intelsat 40e mission has now flown four times. It is identified as booster B1074-4 which previously supported: SpaceX’s 26th Commercial Resupply Services mission (CRS-26) to the International Space Station (ISS), OneWeb Launch 16, and one Starlink mission. The booster was recovered a fourth time around 9-minutes after liftoff, to be reused on a future mission. B1074-4 performed a propulsive landing on the ‘A Shortfall of Gravitas’ autonomous droneship which was stationed in the Atlantic Ocean. As of today, SpaceX has landed a total of 184 orbital-class rockets and reused 156 times. Recovering Falcon 9’s first-stage boosters has enabled the company to reduce the cost of spaceflight and perform more frequent flights. SpaceX President Gwynne Shotwell says they aim to perform 100 Falcon 9 flights this year. Today’s mission is already the 23rd of 2023, the company has been performing missions on average every 4.5 days.

The Intelsat 40e/TEMPO satellite was released by Falcon 9’s upper-stage around 32 minutes after liftoff. The satellite was manufactured by Maxar Technologies. “The TEMPO program really is a win-win-win for the major entities involved," said Aaron Abell, TEMPO project manager at Maxar. "It allows unused capacity on Maxar's heritage satellite design to be leveraged for government missions. This reduces the cost of access to space for the government as well as reduces the cost for Intelsat, as they're compensated for their support of the TEMPO mission,” they stated.

“The IS-40e high-throughput technology serves as a significant commitment to our North American commercial aviation, mobility and network customers,” said Dave Wajsgras, CEO at Intelsat. “As we continue to refresh our fleet of satellites and add capacity, Intelsat is focused on providing the best value and service for our customers and their end users. The satellite also includes a NASA payload that will be the first instrument to monitor air pollution across North America from geostationary orbit.”

“We have several other missions that make observations of atmospheric constituents and atmospheric composition," Karen St. Germain, Earth Science Division director at NASA's headquarters, said during a press conference. "The real unique difference here with TEMPO is going to be that geostationary look.”

“The total cost to NASA is approximately $210 million," said Kevin Daugherty, TEMPO project manager at NASA's Langley Research Center. “Of that, just over $90 million was for the instrument development itself. And the remainder has been for both paying our contractors for hosting TEMPO, and then integration, but as well as some support engineering and management that's been going on.”

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Featured Image Source: SpaceX

About the Author

Evelyn Janeidy Arevalo

Evelyn Janeidy Arevalo

Evelyn J. Arevalo joined Tesmanian in 2019 to cover news as a Space Journalist and SpaceX Starbase Texas Correspondent. Evelyn is specialized in rocketry and space exploration. The main topics she covers are SpaceX and NASA.

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