EchoStar 24 | Falcon Heavy

Lift Off Time
July 29, 2023 – 03:04 UTC
July 28, 2023 23:04 EDT
Mission Name
EchoStar 24
Launch Provider
(What rocket company launched it?)
(Who paid for this?)
Falcon Heavy; B1064-3 (MY), B1065-4 (PY), B1074-1 (center); 194.17, 194.17, and N/A day turnaround time, respectively
Launch Location
LC-39A, Kennedy Space Center, Florida, USA
Payload mass
9,200 kg (20,300 lbs)
Where did the satellites go?
Geostationary Transfer Orbit (GTO-1000); Final Orbit: 95º West GEO
Did they attempt to recover the first stage?
Partially, the side boosters were recovered, but the center core was expended
Where did the first stage land?
The side boosters touched down on Landing Zone 1 and 2 (LZ-1 & LZ-2); the center core splashed down in the Atlantic Ocean
Did they attempt to recover the fairings?
Yes, Doug attempted to recover the fairing halves ~1,533 km downrange
Were these fairings new?
The payload fairing was flight proven; one half flew for its 5th time and the other its 6th
This was the:
First flight of the medium coast kit
– 7th Falcon Heavy launch
– 183rd and 184th re-flight of a booster
– 49th and 50th re-flight of a booster in 2023
– 212th and 213th booster landings
– 138th and 139th consecutive landing (a record)
– 53rd launch for SpaceX in 2023
– 67th SpaceX launch from LC-39A
– 113th orbital launch attempt of 2023
Where to watch
Official Replay

How Did It Go?

SpaceX successfully launched the most massive public payload to Geostationary transfer orbit atop its Falcon Heavy rocket from Launch Complex 39A, at the Cape Canaveral Space Force Station, in Florida. This mission marked the third Falcon Heavy mission of 2023 and placed the EchoStar 24/Jupiter 3 communication satellite into a geostationary transfer orbit. More specifically, the initial orbit was ~8,500 x 35,500 km at 10 degrees, which corresponds to a GTO-1000 (a GTO where 1,000 m/s of dV is needed to reach GEO).

What Is EchoStar 24?

Space Systems/Loral (SSL) selected Hughes Network Systems to build its next-generation ultra-high density satellite EchoStar24, which is also known as Jupiter 3. This satellite is a large, multi-spot Ka-band satellite based on the SSL-1300 satellite bus–a satellite bus that has been used on many other satellites, such as the AsiaSat spacecraft, Galaxy Spacecraft, EchoStar spacecraft, and Intelsat spacecraft.

The satellite has two deployable solar arrays and batteries to power the antennas, which allow for up to 500 Gb/s of throughput. The satellite will go to geostationary orbit, where it will have a 15-year lifespan. EchoStar’s constellation currently consists of five satellites, launched between 2003 and 2017 on a number of vehicles, including the Zenit-3SL, Ariane 5, Atlas V, Proton-M, and Falcon 9.

EchoStar 24
An artist’s rendering of the EchoStar 24 payload (Credit: EchoStar)

What Is Falcon Heavy?

First Stage

The Falcon Heavy first stage contains 27 Merlin 1D+ sea-level engines across three cores. Each engine uses an open gas generator cycle and runs on RP-1 and liquid oxygen (LOx). Each engine produces 845 kN of thrust at sea level, with a specific impulse (ISP) of 285 seconds, and 934 kN in a vacuum with an ISP of 313 seconds. Due to the powerful nature of the engine, and the large amount of them, the Falcon Heavy first stage is able to lose several engines right off the pad, or up to two later in the flight, and be able to successfully place the payload into orbit.

The Merlin engines are ignited by triethylaluminum and triethylborane (TEA-TEB), which instantly burst into flames when mixed in the presence of oxygen. During static fire and launch the TEA-TEB is provided by the ground service equipment. However, as the Falcon first stage is able to propulsively land, three of the Merlin engines (E1, E5, and E9) contain TEA-TEB canisters to relight for the boost back, reentry, and landing burns.

Second Stage

The Falcon Heavy second stage is the same as the Falcon 9’s. It contains a singular MVacD engine that produces 992 kN of thrust and an ISP of 348 seconds. The second stage is capable of doing several burns, allowing the Falcon to put payloads in several different orbits.

SpaceX is currently flying two different versions of the MVacD engine’s nozzle. The standard nozzle design is used on high-performance missions. The other nozzle is a significantly shorter version of the standard, decreasing both performance and material usage; with this nozzle, the MVacD engine produces 10% less thrust in space. This nozzle is only used on lower-performance missions, as it decreases the amount of material needed by 75%. This means that SpaceX can launch over three times as many missions with the same amount of Niobium as with the longer design.

For missions with many burns and/or long coasts between burns, the second stage is able to be equipped with a mission extension package. When the second stage has this package it has a grey strip, which helps keep the RP-1 warm, an increased number of composite-overwrapped pressure vessels (COPVs) for pressurization control, and additional TEA-TEB.

falcon 9 block 5, launch
Falcon 9 Block 5 launching on the Starlink V1.0 L27 mission (Credit: SpaceX)

Falcon Heavy Boosters

The boosters that supported the EchoStar 24 mission were B1074-1 as the center core, the minus Y booster is B1064-3, and the positive Y booster is B1065-3. As the name implies, both side boosters had flown two previous missions and the center core was new. The side boosters previously flew as a set on USSF-44 and USSF-67.

Following stage separation, the Falcon Heavy side cores conducted three burns. These burns softly touched down the boosters on SpaceX’s landing pads LZ-1 and LZ-2. The center core was expended

falcon 9 booster, landing, drone ship
Falcon 9 landing on Of Course I Still Love You after launching Bob and Doug (Credit: SpaceX)

Falcon Heavy Fairings

The Falcon Heavy’s fairing consists of two dissimilar reusable halves. The first half (the half that faces away from the transport erector) is called the active half, and houses the pneumatics for the separation system. The other fairing half is called the passive half. As the name implies, this half plays a purely passive role in the fairing separation process, as it relies on the pneumatics from the active half.

Both fairing halves are equipped with cold gas thrusters and a parafoil which are used to softly touch down the fairing half in the ocean. SpaceX used to attempt to catch the fairing halves, however, at the end of 2020 this program was canceled due to safety risks and a low success rate. On EchoStar 24, SpaceX attempted to recover the fairing halves from the water with its recovery vessel Doug.

In 2021, SpaceX started flying a new version of the Falcon 9/Heavy fairing. The new “upgraded” version has vents only at the top of each fairing half, by the gap between the halves, whereas the old version had vents placed spread equidistantly around the base of the fairing. Moving the vents decreases the chance of water getting into the fairing, making the chance of a successful scoop significantly higher.

Falcon 9 Active Half
An active Falcon 9 fairing half (Credit: Greg Scott)

EchoStar 24 Launch Countdown

– 00:53:00SpaceX Launch Director verifies go for propellant load
– 00:50:001st stage RP-1 (rocket grade kerosene) loading begins
– 00:45:001st stage LOX (liquid oxygen) loading begins
– 00:35:002nd stage RP-1 (rocket grade kerosene) loading begins
– 00:18:302nd stage LOX loading begins
– 00:07:00Falcon Heavy begins engine chill
– 00:00:59Flight computer commanded to begin final pre-launch checks
– 00:00:45SpaceX Launch Director verifies go for launch
– 00:00:20Propellant tanks pressurize for flight
– 00:00:06Engine controller commands engine ignition sequence to start
– 00:00:00Falcon Heavy liftoff

EchoStar 24 Launch, Landing, and Deployment

All Times Approximate

00:01:09Max Q (moment of peak mechanical stress on the rocket)
00:02:22Side boosters engine cutoff (BECO)
00:02:25Side boosters separate
00:02:44Side boosters boostback burns begin
00:03:49Side boosters boostback burns end
00:03:521st stage main engine cutoff (MECO)
00:03:551st and 2nd stages separate
00:04:012nd stage engine starts (SES)
00:04:16Fairing deployment
00:06:20Side boosters entry burns start
00:06:36Side boosters entry burns end
00:07:20Side boosters landing burns start
00:07:34Side boosters landing
00:08:232nd stage engine cutoff (SECO-1)
00:26:252nd stage engine starts (SES-2)
00:27:592nd stage engine cutoff (SECO-2)
03:22:012nd stage engine starts (SES-3)
03:22:262nd stage engine cutoff (SECO-3)
03:28:39JUPITER 3 deploys

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