Turkmenistan joins the ranks of spacefaring nations

The latest country to operate a spacecraft in orbit is Turkmenistan, with TurkmenAlem52E/MonacoSat, launched aboard a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket from Cape Canaveral Air Station this afternoon.  Due to the propellant demands on this mission to geosynchronous transfer orbit, a return and landing of the first stage was not attempted.  Originally named TurkmenSat 1 and built by Thales Group, the spacecraft will be operated by the Turkmenistan National Space Agency.  Less clear is exactly who will be making use of it.  It’s a typical commsat, but Turkmenistan just banned private ownership of satellite dishes in an apparent attempt to silence inconvenient broadcasters, so who will receive this spacecraft’s signals?  That’s yet to see.  Perhaps that’s why it got renamed; perhaps Turkmenistan can only pay for it if they’re providing services to Monaco.  In any case, it’s on its way to its lofty perch now.

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