Sky Perfect JSAT chooses SpaceX spacecraft for 2024 satellite launch

TAMPA, Fla. — Sky Perfect JSAT announced Aug. 18 that it has chosen SpaceX’s Starship rocket to launch its Superbird-9 satellite in 2024.

The Japanese satellite operator said it signed a contract for a mission on the super-heavy vehicle that SpaceX is developing in Boca Chica, Texas, but did not provide any further details on the deal.

“SKY Perfect JSAT and SpaceX will continue to work together ahead of the launch of the Superbird-9 satellite,” the operator said in the brief announcement.

This is one of the first contracts announced by a commercial satellite operator for the launch of a spacecraft.

Texas-based cellphone-enabled broadband constellation startup AST SpaceMobile has a deal with SpaceX that provides options to book Falcon 9 or Starship launches through the end of 2024.

SpaceX has contracts with NASA develop Starship to serve as a lander for crewed missions to the moon.

Spatialship, designed to carry 21 tons of payload in geostationary transfer orbit and more than 100 tons in low Earth orbit, are also expected to play a vital role in the launch of a second generation project of SpaceX’s Starlink broadband satellites.

From its height of 120 meters, SpaceX hopes to one day use the rocket to help colonize Mars. The company has plans for missions deeper into the solar system with spacecraft that can be refueled in “parking orbit” around Earth.

SpaceX has conducted static firing tests of Starship’s Super Heavy first-stage booster as it prepares to conduct its first orbital flight test.

In June, the Federal Aviation Administration removed a roadblock to Starship development when it finished reviewing the environmental impact of SpaceX’s launch from Boca Chica.

However, SpaceX must first implement dozens of measures to mitigate environmental effects.

Airbus is building Superbird-9 for JSAT based on its OneSat reconfigurable payload platform, which was previously used for satellites weighing around 3 metric tons.

This makes it likely that Superbird-9 will launch with other passengers en route to geostationary orbit.

Jarrod McLachlan, SpaceX’s director of rideshare sales, said Aug. 9 that it was “work on carpooling setup and small satellite deals for Starship,” though he is not ready to announce specific carpool opportunities.

JSAT said it plans to begin operations with Superbird-9 in 2025, when it will use the satellite’s steerable beams to provide broadcast and broadband services primarily in Japan and East Asia.

The operator said it plans to invest 30 billion yen ($222 million) in the satellite project.

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