Zenit rocket launches DirecTV-11 satellite

Thursday, March 20, 2008

A Zenit-2 rocket, similar to the Zenit-3SL, at the Baikonur Cosmodrome.
The Ocean Odyssey launch platform

A Sea Launch Zenit-3SL rocket has successfully launched the DirecTV-11 Communications satellite for DirecTV. The Ukrainian-built rocket lifted off from the Norwegian Ocean Odyssey launch platform in the Pacific Ocean at 22:47:59 (UTC) yesterday evening, with spacecraft separation from the carrier rocket occurring at 23:49:03.

The mission, which marked the 13th orbital launch of 2008, is the 25th commercial launch to be conducted by the international Sea Launch consortium, the first of which also lofted a DirecTV satellite. This is also the 250th flight of the Block DM upper stage, which is used on some variants of the Zenit and Proton rockets. Launch had been delayed from November 2007 due to damage to the launch platform caused by the failure of an earlier Zenit launch. Delays from earlier this month were caused by a problem with the satellite, resulting in a ten-day delay, and a further two-day delay from Monday evening due to an undisclosed problem with the rocket.

DirecTV-11 is a Boeing 702 satellite, which will provide Direct-to-home High-definition television broadcasting services to houses in the United States, by means of Ka-band communications. It is one of three such satellites operated by DirecTV. The satellite made its first contact with the ground several hours after launch, at 05:44 GMT.

The launch was dedicated to Arthur C. Clarke who died on Tuesday. Clarke, who was most well known for writing the book which 2001: A Space Odyssey was based on, was also the first person to suggest placing satellites into geosynchronous and geostationary orbits. DirecTV-11 will be placed into such an orbit.

Sea Launch President Rob Peckham said that he "feels good" about the mission success, and that Sea Launch was "proud of [its] role in DirecTV's continued success". Steve O'Neill, the President of Boeing Satellite Systems, said that the launch was "a great ride", and thanked Sea Launch for their "excellent work".

The satellite's initial orbit was confirmed to be 250km x 36484.8km x 0°, differing by only 2.8km from the planned orbit.

Sea Launch have a further four launches planned for this year. In addition, its subsidiary Land Launch will conduct its first launch, using a Zenit-3SLB rocket from area 45/1 at the Baikonur Cosmodrome to launch the AMOS-60 satellite. This is currently scheduled for mid-April. The next Sea Launch mission, with the Galaxy 18 satellite, is scheduled for May.


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