SES announced today that the SES-20 and SES-21 satellites were successfully launched into space by the United Launch Alliance’s (ULA) Atlas V rocket from Cape Canaveral Space Force Station in Florida, United States, at 5:36 pm local time on Tuesday, October 4.
Both C-band satellites will enable SES to continue delivering TV and radio to millions of American homes and provide other critical network communications services. SES-20 and SES-21 will operate in the 103 degrees West and 131 degrees West orbital slots, respectively, and are expected to begin operations in November 2022.
These launches are part of a broader Federal Communications Commission (FCC) program to clear a portion of C-band spectrum to enable wireless operators to deploy 5G services across the contiguous US (CONUS). In response to this mandate from the FCC, satellite operators such as SES are required to transition their existing services from the lower 300 MHz to the upper 200 MHz of C-band spectrum to make room for 5G.
SES-20 and SES-21 are the second and third C-band satellites that SES has launched as part of its effort to free up the lower 300 MHz of C-band spectrum across the US by December 2023 while maintaining uninterrupted services. SES-22 was the first C-band satellite to be launched on June 29, 2022.
“The successful launch of SES-20 and SES-21 will allow us to support our customers in delivering high-quality sports and entertainment to tens of millions of US households while delivering on our promise to repurpose spectrum to enable US leadership in 5G,” said Steve Collar, CEO of SES. “The second phase of our US C-band clearing activities is fully on track and we are grateful for the hard work of our partners at Boeing and ULA.”
“We’re excited to support our commercial partner SES in their C-band transition efforts to meet the FCC’s objective to deploy 5G service across the US Their mission aligns with our mission to connect the world and these capabilities will enable uninterrupted commercial services to many Americans,” said Gary Wentz, ULA vice president of Government and Commercial Programs. “The Atlas V delivered the satellites accurately to a near-geosynchronous orbit 22,300 miles (35,888 km) above the equator. Thank you to the ULA team and our partners for ensuring the successful delivery of this multi-payload mission to orbit.”
“Our unique dual-launch configuration was again successful on this mission,” said Ryan Reid, President of Boeing Satellite Systems International. “That coupled with the ULA Atlas V’s ability to achieve an advantageous orbit enables SES to get these satellites into service in a matter of weeks. We appreciate the faith SES has put in our industry team to make that happen.”