SES goes for innovative Falcon 9
From Chris Forrester in Washington

SES used the Washington Satellite 2011 show to announce that they would be using Space X’s innovative Falcon 9 rocket to launch an upcoming satellite. Space X is backed by billionaire Elon Musk, founder of PayPal, and the overall concept is to use – wherever possible – production line-type manufacturing techniques to lower the overall cost of rocket launching.

This SES order covers at least one launch with an option on a second, and the order will represent the first geostationary satellite launch for the Falcon system. SES will use the launch for its SES-8 satellite. While the order value has not been revealed it is understood that SES has struck an excellent price for the launch.

“As a world-leading telecommunications satellite operator, SES is in a position to choose the very best. SES is known for their low tolerance to risk and cautious approach in evaluating suppliers,” said Elon Musk, SpaceX CEO and Chief Technical Officer. “SpaceX has focused on building the most reliable, safe and affordable launch vehicles in the market today. The SES deal shows that even the most conservative commercial or government customers can have confidence flying their satellites on the Falcon 9 rocket.”

Romain Bausch, President/CEO of SES, added: “Access to space is of utmost importance to SES, as we embark on our most ambitious fleet expansion programme yet. After extensive due diligence of SpaceX’s technical and operational expertise, we feel comfortable entrusting SpaceX with one of our satellites, thereby encouraging diversity in the launch vehicle sector and fostering entrepreneurial spirit in the space industry. Falcon 9 ideally complements our roster of Ariane 5 and Proton boosters, as well as our framework launch understanding with Sea Launch. We look forward to a successful collaboration with SpaceX on the SES-8 mission and beyond.”

The SES-8 satellite is scheduled to launch in the first quarter of 2013 from SpaceX’s Launch Complex 40 at the Air Force Station at Cape Canaveral, Florida.