A SpaceX Falcon Heavy will launch the heaviest satellite in history early next year

At 9.2 tons, it may be the largest spacecraft to ever launch to geostationary orbit.
Chris Young

SpaceX will launch the heaviest commercial geostationary satellite ever aboard a Falcon Heavy rocket early next year, following several delays. 

Earlier this month, SpaceX customer EchoStar announced satellite builder Maxar Technologies had delayed the delivery of the much-anticipated Jupiter-3, which had been scheduled to launch near the end of the year.

New information has since emerged, upping Jupiter-3's original dry weight estimation, meaning it will be a record-breaking satellite launch for all involved.

Jupiter-3 will launch in 'early 2023'

In March, EchoStar announced its Hughes Network system had selected SpaceX to launch the Maxar-built Jupiter-3 geostationary communications satellite during an industry conference. During that announcement, the company said the satellite would launch in the fourth quarter of 2022.

Now, due to delays to numerous Maxar spacecraft, the satellite will launch no earlier than "early 2023," according to Teslarati. At the time of the delay announcement, Maxar also announced that Jupiter-3, also known as Echostar 24, is expected to weigh roughly 9.2 metric tons (~20,300 lb) — more than earlier estimations that it would weigh 5,817 kg (~12,825 lb) at liftoff.

In July 2018, SpaceX reached a new milestone, breaking the record for the heaviest commercial geostationary satellite launch in history when it took the 7076-kilogram (15,600 lb) Telstar 19V to geostationary transfer orbit (GTO).

SpaceX has 10 Falcon Heavy missions scheduled

Now, at 9.2 metric tons, Jupiter-3 may be the largest spacecraft of any kind to ever launch to geostationary orbit, as heavier launch vehicles typically break off into separate stages before that point, 22,236 miles (35,785 km) above Earth's surface.

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However, it is worth noting that Arianespace's Ariane 5 rocket holds the record for heaviest total payload weight to GTO after it launched two communications satellites weighing 10.27 tons. SpaceX, meanwhile, will break its record for a single payload with Telstar 19V, which was set using a Falcon 9 rocket. Due to its increased payload capacity, the private space firm now means to break its own record using Falcon Heavy. 

Jupiter-3 will deliver a maximum bandwidth of 500 gigabits per second, and it will cover North and South America, Canada, and Mexico. The satellite was initially meant to deploy in early 2021, though its launch was delayed by supply chain woes caused by the pandemic. Now, Barring any further delays, the record-breaking Jupiter-3 will launch in early 2023, and it is one of 10 missions that will take place aboard a Falcon Heavy between now and 2025.

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