The SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket carrying the SES-8 communications satellite launches from Cape Canaveral SLC-40.
|Mission duration||15 years|
|Launch mass||3170 kg|
|Start of mission|
|Launch date||3 December 2013, 22:41:00 UTC|
|Rocket||Falcon 9 v1.1|
|Launch site||Cape Canaveral, SLC-40|
|Reference system||Geocentric orbit|
|Coverage area||South Asia (India) and Indo-China (Thailand, Vietnam, Laos)|
It was the first flight of any SpaceX launch vehicle to a supersynchronous transfer orbit, an orbit with a somewhat larger apogee than the more usual Geostationary transfer orbit (GTO) typically utilised for communication satellites.
The communications satellite is initially co-located at 95.0° East  with NSS-6 in order to provide communications bandwidth growth capacity in the Asia-Pacific region, specifically aimed at high-growth markets in South Asia and Indo-China, "as well as provide expansion capacity for DTH, VSAT and government applications".
The launch of SES-8 was the seventh launch of the Falcon 9 launch vehicle, and the second launch of the Falcon 9 v1.1. SES paid a discounted price — "well under USD 60 million" — for the launch since it was the inaugural geostationary launch on the Falcon 9. When originally contracted, in 2011 the putative launch date was early 2013.
The launch was the second launch of the Falcon 9 v1.1 version of the rocket, a longer rocket with 60% more thrust than the Falcon 9 v1.0 vehicle, and the first launch of the larger v1.1 rocket using the rebuilt erector structure at SpaceX' Cape Canaveral SLC-40. As a result, a number of systems on the launch vehicle was flown for only the second time, while several parts of the ground infrastructure at Cape Canaveral were used in a launch for the first time. These include:
In order to maximize the propellant available for the launch of SES-8 into GTO, SpaceX did not attempt a controlled descent test of the first-stage booster as they did on the previous Falcon 9 v1.1 flight in September 2013.
In the previous launch of the Falcon 9 v1.1 — the first launch of the much larger version of the rocket with new Merlin 1D engines — on 29 September 2013, SpaceX was unsuccessful in reigniting the second stage Merlin 1D vacuum engine once the rocket had deployed its primary payload (CASSIOPE) and all of its nanosat secondary payloads. The restart failure was determined to be frozen igniter fluid lines in the second-stage Merlin 1D engine. A minor redesign was done to address the problem by adding additional insulation to the lines.
A second burn of the upper stage was required, and was completed successfully, during the SES-8 mission in order to place the SES-8 telecommunications satellite into the highly elliptical supersynchronous orbit for satellite operator SES to effect a plane change and orbit circularisation.
Both stages of the Falcon 9 arrived at Cape Canaveral for processing before 2 October 2013, after both had trouble-free test firings at the SpaceX Rocket Development and Test Facility at McGregor, Texas.
A launch attempt on 25 November 2013, with a planned liftoff at 22:37:00 UTC was scrubbed following a reported off-nominal condition in the liquid oxygen tank and supply lines of the first-stage booster that could not be resolved within the approximately one-hour launch window. A launch date of 28 November 2013 was announced, three days later, being the next opportunity for the launch site on Earth to be in alignment to achieve the target orbit.
|Attempt||Planned||Result||Turnaround||Reason||Decision point||Weather go (%)||Notes|
|1||25 Nov 2013, 10:37:00 pm||Hold and countdown restart||—||Launch delay||25 Nov 2013, 10:24 pm (T–00:13:00)||80%||Launch window: 22:37–23:43 UTC[full citation needed]|
|2||25 Nov 2013, 10:54:00 pm||Hold and countdown restart||0 days, 0 hours, 17 minutes||Automatic abort||25 Nov 2013, 10:47 pm (T–00:06:11)||80%||Launch window: 22:37–23:43 UTC|
|3||25 Nov 2013, 11:30:00 pm||Scrubbed||0 days, 0 hours, 36 minutes||Off-nominal condition||25 Nov 2013, 11:26 pm (T–00:03:41)||80%||Launch window: 22:37–23:43 UTC|
|4||28 Nov 2013, 10:39:00 pm||Hold and countdown restart||2 days, 23 hours, 9 minutes||Automatic abort||28 Nov 2013, 10:38 pm (T–00:00:30)||90%||Launch window: 22:39–23:44 UTC|
|5||28 Nov 2013, 11:44:00 pm||Scrubbed||0 days, 1 hour, 5 minutes||Data review not completed||28 Nov 2013, 11:43 pm (T–00:00:48)||90%||Launch window: 22:39–23:44 UTC|
|6||3 Dec 2013, 10:41:00 pm||Successful launch||4 days, 22 hours, 57 minutes||90%||Launch window: 22:41–00:07 UTC|
The launch, for which SES paid well under US$60 million, has suffered multiple delays as Hawthorne, California-based SpaceX works through issues related to bringing the vehicle to operational status. Given the low price paid, SES is reluctant to move the satellite to another rocket despite the months-long delay. The company is still hoping for a launch in November or December. The original contract in 2011 called for an early 2013 launch.