Sea Launch Deploys New Galaxy for North America
Launch of Galaxy 19 on September 24, 2008.
Credit: Sea Launch

A communications satellite that will broadcast a range of international television channels to North America was sent into space today to replace the aging spacecraft currently doing that job.

A commercial Sea Launch Zenit 3SL booster began its successful 63-minute ascent carrying the Galaxy 19 spacecraft from a converted oil-drilling platform positioned in equatorial waters of the Pacific about 1,400 miles south of Hawaii. Liftoff occurred at exactly 0927:59.108 GMT (5:27:59.108 a.m. EDT).

"Another fantastic launch," said Kjell Karlsen, president and general manager of Sea Launch. "It's what we call a very boring launch, which is very good. Everything was right on target."

The two Ukrainian-made lower stages of the rocket performed their firings to propel the Russian Block DM-SL upper stage and Galaxy satellite out of the atmosphere during the initial eight-and-a-half minutes of flight.

The upper stage then took over, completing an initial engine burn to reach a preliminary orbit about 17 minutes after launch. The rocket coasted for a half-hour, flying over South America, before re-igniting for a three-minute firing to accelerate the payload into an elliptical geosynchronous transfer orbit with a high point of 22,149 miles and low point of 1,746 miles.

The Galaxy 19 satellite will use an onboard engine to reach a circular geostationary orbit 22,300 miles above the equator where it can match Earth's rotation and seem parked over one spot of the globe. That slot will be 97 degrees West longitude where it will replace the 11-year-old Galaxy 25 spacecraft, formerly known as Telstar 5.

"This satellite will provide our customers valuable 50-state coverage in addition to reaching the Caribbean, Canada and Mexico," said David McGlade, Intelsat's CEO.

"Once operational, Galaxy 19 will host the largest international video programming platform in North America, providing distribution of news and entertainment to our customers who serve the ethnically diverse audience of this region. Likewise, Galaxy 19 will offer our government and network customers refreshed capacity, with seamless data communications for years to come."

The 10,340-pound satellite was built by Space Systems/Loral using the 1300-series spacecraft design. It is equipped with a communications package of 52 transponders in C-band and Ku-band.

"We expect to see the spacecraft working flawlessly for over 20 years," said Ken Lee, Intelsat's vice president of space systems.

This is the 43rd satellite constructed by Space Systems/Loral to enter Intelsat's in-orbit fleet.

"We have been delivering satellites to Intelsat for over 25 years," said John Celli, president and chief operating officer of Space Systems/Loral.

Galaxy 19 marked Intelsat's 8th flight with Sea Launch and the second this year, following the Galaxy 18 craft's deployment in May.

"I was here four months ago and, just like today, it was another flawless mission," said Lee.

Galaxy 19 will join Intelsat's North American Galaxy fleet comprised of 16 other satellites that cover North and Central America, plus the Caribbean.

"Globalization of content continues to be a significant driver for industry growth, creating demand for satellite capacity. Because of the global society we live in today, being able to watch regional programming from other countries or special events such as the Olympic Games remains paramount, especially for the ethnically diverse audience in North America," said McGlade.

This was the fifth and final Sea Launch mission of the year. The next ocean-going liftoff is targeted for January to loft Italy's Sicral 1B military telecommunications satellite.

Earlier this summer, Spaceflight Now visited Sea Launch Home Port in Long Beach, California. See our exclusive photo galley here and an overview of Sea Launch operations here.

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