SpaceX is set to kick off the 2021 launch calendar carrying the Türksat 5A satellite into a geostationary transfer orbit for Turkish telecommunications provider Türksat.
The Türksat 5A satellite is expected to be launched aboard a flight-proven Falcon 9 on January 8 at 01:28 UTC from Cape Canaveral, Florida. As of January 4, the weather forecast predicts an 80% chance of favourable conditions during the launch window.
Despite the runup to the January 8 launch proceeding normally, preparations for the Türksat 5A mission have not been without incident. In October 2020, hundreds gathered outside SpaceX headquarters in Hawthorne, California to protest the launch of the Turkish telecommunications satellite. Activists claimed that the satellite would be used in the ongoing conflict between Armenia and Azerbaijan, which Turkey has been involved in.
The 3,500-kilogram Türksat 5A telecommunications satellite is the first of a pair of satellites built by Airbus Defence and Space for the state-owned satellite communications operator, Türksat. The satellite is designed to provide direct TV broadcasting services to Europe, the Middle East, North Africa, and South Africa. It is expected to be most advanced in the Türksat constellation and has an operational lifespan of 15 years.
The Falcon 9 first stage earmarked for the Türksat 5A mission will be launched on its fourth flight. It was first launched towards the end of June 2020 carrying the GPS III-03 satellite for the US Space Force. It then supported two 60-satellite launches in September and October adding to the ever-growing SpaceX Starlink constellation. The stage is expected to be recovered for a fourth time following its Türksat 5A flight.