SpaceX Sets April 30 Launch Date for Dragon ISS Mission

Falcon 9 launch. (Credit: Chris Thompson)

The SATELLITE 2012 Conference is going on this week in Washington, DC. Jeff Foust sat in on some sessions today and posted updates on Twitter at @jeff_foust. He covered panels by launch providers and the four major satellite operators.

Launch Vehicle Providers Panel


  • Gwynne Shotwell of SpaceX announces they have an April 30 launch date for their next Dragon mission to ISS; berth May 3.
  • Shotwell: they have almost an instantaneous launch window that day; launch opportunities only every 3 days.
  • Shotwell: will have 1st upgraded Falcon 9 (needed for comm’l sat launches) at VAFB by December, launch “shortly thereafter”

China Great Wall Industry Corporation

  • Gao Ruofei of China Great Wall Industry Corp says China planning 20-21 launches this year, up from a record 19 in 2011.


  • Jean-Yves Le Gall, Arianespace: planning a minimum of 2 Vega launches a year for the next 5 years.

Sea Launch

  • Sea Launch planning upgrades to the Zenit-3SL that will increase capacity to 6400 kg and then 6700 kg to GTO.

Alcantara Space

  • 1st Cyclone-4 launch from Alcântara site in Brazil scheduled for end of 2013; launch site construction in progress.
  • Cyclone Space says Cyclone-4 is lowest priced” rocket with “meaningful” GTO payload. But how meaningful is 1700 kg?

Satellite Operators Panel (Eutelsat, Intelsat, SES, Telesat)

  • Eutelsat’s Michel de Rosen on hosted payloads: lets you share more resources, but lose some flexibility. It’s like a marriage
  • Dave McGlade, Intelsat: still believe there are opportunities in satellite servicing even though ended deal with MDA.
  • CEO panelists say they’re happy with launch services from Arianespace and ILS, but looking for competition to lower prices.
  • All four specifically mentioned SpaceX, wiched [sic] them luck and hoped they’ll become a player in commercial satellite launch.