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Successful satellite launch aims to boost DISH Network

Posted: September 18, 2009

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A Canadian commercial communications satellite was shot into space from the famed Baikonur Cosmodrome on Thursday to serve customers across the United States who subscribe to the DISH Network.

The Nimiq 5 spacecraft launched at 1919 GMT (3:19 p.m. EDT) atop Russia's heavy-lift Proton rocket, beginning a steep climb aboard the four-stage booster.

The liftoff came just three hours after a Soyuz rocket departed Baikonur carrying a Russian weather satellite.

The Proton blasts off with Nimiq 5. Credit: ILS
Six main engines of the Proton ignited to blast the 19-story rocket away from the desert steppes of Kazakhstan. After first stage separation two minutes into flight, four engines aboard the second stage fired for three-and-a-half minutes. The Proton's third stage then came to life for its four-minute job, during which time the protective payload fairing shielding Nimiq 5 was let go after reaching the upper atmosphere.

The Proton booster's three core stages delivered the upper stage and the payload into an initial suborbital trajectory by T+plus 10 minutes. That set the stage for the Breeze M upper stage to conduct five burns over nine hours that methodically propelled 10,460-pound payload craft into the desired orbit for deployment, which was targeted to have a low point around 2,897 miles, high point of 22,236 miles and inclination of 13 degrees to the equator.

The satellite's onboard engine system will complete the task of circularizing the orbit to an altitude of 22,300 miles along the equator, and controllers will guide the craft into an orbital slot at 72.7 degrees West longitude.

Nimiq 5 is a large, state-of-the-art satellite built by Space Systems/Loral for operator Telesat of Ottawa, Canada. The craft is equipped with 32 Ku-band transponders to beam direct-to-home programming and high definition TV across North America.

"We announced earlier today that EchoStar is taking all of the capacity on Nimiq 5," said Dan Goldberg, president and CEO of Telesat. "We want to thank EchoStar and their affiliate, DISH, for putting their trust once again in Telesat. They're already one of our biggest customers and we're looking forward to expanding our relationship with them on Nimiq 5."

DISH Network relies upon a constellation of orbiting satellites to satisfy the demands of its 13.6 million customers.

Nimiq 5 is expected to enter service next month. It has a 15-year design life.

"The successful ILS Proton launch of Nimiq 5 will assure reliable access to advanced digital programming for North American subscribers and also assures the continued expansion of our business," Goldberg said.

"We appreciate the professionalism and dependability ILS and Khrunichev provided with another flawless ILS Proton launch. My sincere thanks to the entire team of ILS, Khrunichev, Space Systems/Loral and Telesat for their steadfast dedication throughout the mission and for a job well done."

Thursday's launch was the seventh this year for the Proton rocket and the fifth commercial flight for International Launch Services. Two more government missions are planned, including next Friday's launch carrying three GLONASS navigation satellites.

The next ILS launch is targeted for mid-November carrying the W7 communications spacecraft for European operator Eutelsat. The satellite recently switched rides after Sea Launch, its original choice to deploy the craft, filed bankruptcy and couldn't perform the launch as scheduled.

"ILS is uniquely suited to meet demanding customer requirements and we are committed to providing real business value to our customers," ILS President Frank McKenna said in the contract announcement earlier this month. "Meeting Eutelsat's critical schedule requirements with our leading edge integration and robust production capability allowed us to schedule the W7 launch within a timeframe that is simply unmatched in the industry."