A powerful reinforcement to bolster DISH Network's fleet ofdirect-to-hometelevision broadcasting satellites climbed into orbit Saturday.
The9-hour ride for the EchoStar15 spacecraftatop a Russian heavy-lift Proton rocket and Breeze M upper stage kickmotorbegan with liftoff from the Baikonur Cosmodrome at 1840 GMT (2:40 p.m.EDT).
Soaringup and away from the desert steppesof Central Asia, the booster's lower three stages fired in successfulfashionand each dropped away as prescribed during the first 10 minutes offlight.
TheBreeze M then ignited to propel itselfand the attached 12,150-pound payload into an initial parking orbitbeforereaching the eastern coast of Russia.
Anhour trip over the Pacific and bottom tipof South America culminated with the rocket firing to life a secondtime whileflying above the Atlantic and Africa to ascend into a higherintermediateorbit.
Atwo-hour coast around the world followedbefore the Breeze would light its engine again over South America, shutdownbriefly to jettison the now-depleted donut-shaped auxiliary fuelreservoir,then re-ignite over the Atlantic to achieve a highly inclinedelliptical orbitstretching 22,250 miles in altitude.
Fivemore hours of coasting away from theplanet occurred over Europe and Asia before reaching the planned pointabovethe Indian Ocean for one final propulsive push by the rocket deliveredEchoStar15 into geosynchronous transfer orbit.
Thecomplex launch maneuvers were designed torelease the satellite into an orbit with a high point of 22,236 miles,a lowpoint of 3,747 miles and inclination of 18.7 degrees.
Spacecraftseparation from the rocket came at0353 GMT (11:53 p.m. EDT) to mark a successful start to the satellite'slifeserving the DISH Network.
"Thelaunchof EchoStar 15 demonstrates DISH Network's continuingcommitment todelivering the most high-quality HD programming at the best value,"saidTom Cullen, executive vice president. "DISH Network is the only pay-TVprovider that offers 'HD Free For Life' to every customer, and we'reproud thatEchoStar 15 will soon allow us to provide even more high definitionchannelsfor free."
Inthe coming weeks, ground controllers willcommand the satellite's own engine to circularize the orbit at 22,300milesabove the equator where the craft will match Earth's rotation andappear parkedat 61.5 degrees West longitude to view the U.S.
Builtby Space Systems/Loral, the satelliteis equipped with 32 Ku-band transponders to relay high definitiontelevisionand other features directly to the homes of DISH Network subscribers.
"TheEchoStar 15 satellite will be usedby DISH Network primarily to provide programming service to the easternhalf ofthe U.S. It's an important satellite because it has more power, whichresultsin greater reliability," said Rohan Zaveri, EchoStar's vice presidentofspace programs.
"TheEchoStar 15 satellite is a veryhigh-powered satellite ? in excess of 20 kilowatts. That provides alot ofoperational flexibility to our EchoStar customer," said Keith Marco,SpaceSystems/Loral's executive director for EchoStar 15.
"Weplan to use about 300 watts of powerper channel. That's approximately a 20 to 30 percent increase inpower,"Zaveri added. "The increased power will also allow DISH to broadcast afewmore channels than what's currently being offered."
Thepay TV firm, based in Englewood,Colorado, utilizes a dozen orbiting spacecraft to transmit services to14million customers.
EchoStar15 joins two older satellites at the61.5-degree slot: EchoStar 3 launched in October 1997 and EchoStar 12launchedin July 2003, both using ILS Atlas rockets from Cape Canaveral,Florida.
"(EchoStar15) is going to provide quitea bit more power and capability that I think will be a huge benefit totheviewers," Zaveri said.
Theopportunitytolaunch Saturday came sooner than originally envisioned forthe EchoStar 15project, which was something the combined rocket and satellite teamstookadvantage of.
"Weat SS/L committed to a veryaggressive schedule for EchoStar 15 and still managed to deliver aheadof thatschedule, enabling EchoStar to procure an earlier launch," Marco said.
TheRussian aerospace firm Khrunichev, basedin Moscow, built the Proton and International Launch Services ofVirginiamanaged the commercial rocket flight.
Thiswas the 358th Proton launch dating backto 1965 and the seventh of 2010. For marketer ILS, the missionrepresented the61st commercial flight since 1996 and fifth this year.
TheProton has averaged a successful launchin each of the last 24 months. The next mission with the first SkyTerramobilecommunications satellite is planned for mid-August.
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