Globalstar spare satellite to launch on SpaceX rocket this month

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File photo of a Globalstar second-generation satellite. Credit: Thales Alenia Space

A spare satellite for Globalstar’s data relay and messaging constellation will launch from Cape Canaveral on a Falcon 9 rocket later this month, multiple sources said, in a previously-undisclosed mission on SpaceX’s schedule.

The launch will be the first for a Globalstar satellite since 2013, and adds capacity for the company’s commercial network providing data connectivity for satellite phones, asset tracking, and internet-of-things applications.

Globalstar has said in quarterly financial filings, most recently last month, that it plans to launch one of its spare satellites in the “near future.” The company did not identify the launcher for the spare satellite.

Sources told Spaceflight Now the spacecraft, designated Globalstar FM15, is booked to launch on a Falcon 9 rocket as soon as mid-June. The mission will be the next Falcon 9 launch from pad 40 at Cape Canaveral after the liftoff of the Egyptian Nilesat 301 geostationary communications satellite Wednesday.

Globalstar operates a fleet of dozens of communications satellites in low Earth orbit. The company did not respond to multiple requests for details on the upcoming launch.

The company launched 60 first-generation satellites, built by Space Systems/Loral, on Delta 2 and Soyuz rockets from 1998 through 2007. Globalstar added 24 second-generation satellites, manufactured by Thales Alenia Space, on four Soyuz rocket missions from 2010 through 2013.

Globalstar ordered six more second-generation satellites from Thales in 2012. One of those will be launched on the upcoming SpaceX mission.

“Our constellation of Low Earth Orbit (LEO) satellites includes second-generation satellites and certain first-generation satellites,” Globalstar said in a quarterly report filed with the Securities and Exchange Commission last month. “We also have one on-ground spare second-generation satellite that we plan to launch in the near future.”

A recent regulatory filing with the Federal Communications Commission doesn’t match any other launch on SpaceX’s schedule, but is apparently for the Globalstar mission. SpaceX requests authority from the FCC to operate vehicle transmitters for each Falcon 9 flight.

The recent filing is for a Falcon 9 launch that will head to the northeast from Cape Canaveral, with an offshore first stage booster landing on one of SpaceX’s drone ships.

The Thales-built Globalstar satellite weighs about 700 kilograms, or 1,543 pounds. The Globalstar fleet orbits about 878 miles (1,413 kilometers) above Earth at an inclination of 52 degrees to the equator, an orbit reachable with a launch to the northeast from Cape Canaveral.

SpaceX and Globalstar have not confirmed if the upcoming launch will be a dedicated ride for the Globalstar payload, or if other satellites might be on-board the Falcon 9.

An online flight tracking website showed an Ilyushin Il-76 cargo plane arrived at the Launch and Landing Facility runway at the Kennedy Space Center last month, delivering a shipment from Rome, Italy, where Thales built the second-generation Globalstar satellites.

File photo of a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket at Space Launch Complex 40. Credit: Michael Cain / Spaceflight Now / Coldlife Photography

The Globalstar satellites provide data connectivity for customers between 70 degrees north and south latitude, and the company’s second-generation spacecraft are designed for operational lifetimes of 15 years. The Thales-built Globalstar satellites are trapezoidal in shape and feature 16 transponders in C-band and S-band and 16 receivers in L-band and C-band.

Globalstar is a competitor in the satellite phone and data relay market with companies like Iridium, Inmarsat, and Orbcomm. Globalstar announced in February it is purchasing 17 new satellites from an industry team led by MDA and Rocket Lab to extend the life of its constellation.

The company expects all of the 17 new satellites will be launched by the end of 2025. A launch service provider for the new satellites hasn’t been announced.

The $327 million contract for the 17 new satellites, along with the launch this month of Globalstar’s spare second-generation spacecraft, is being primarily funded by an unnamed “potential customer” for Globalstar’s services.

The Globalstar launch in mid-June is one of up to six Falcon 9 missions on SpaceX’s launch schedule this month.

The Falcon 9 schedule this month has been shuffled after the delay of a space station resupply mission to investigate a possible fuel leak on a SpaceX cargo ship. The resupply mission, designated CRS-25, was set to lift off this week from pad 39A at the Kennedy Space Center, but is now scheduled no earlier than June 28.

Here’s a snapshot of the Falcon 9 launch schedule for June, as of Tuesday:

• June 8: Nilesat 301 from SLC-40 at Cape Canaveral Space Force Station, Florida

• Mid-June: Globalstar FM15 from SLC-40 at Cape Canaveral Space Force Station, Florida

• June 18: SARah 1 from SLC-4E at Vandenberg Space Force Base, California

• Mid-June: Starlink 4-19 from LC-39A at Kennedy Space Center, Florida

• June 28: CRS-25 from LC-39A at Kennedy Space Center, Florida

• June 28: SES 22 from SLC-40 at Cape Canaveral Space Force Station, Florida

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Follow Stephen Clark on Twitter: @StephenClark1.

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