BY JUSTIN RAY
November 30, 2000 -- Follow the countdown and launch of the Proton rocket launching the Sirius 3 spacecraft for Sirius Satellite Radio. Reload this page for the very latest on the mission.
2249 GMT (5:49 p.m. EST)
Sirius 3 is the third and final member of the Sirius Satellite Radio constellation that will provide 100 channels of music, news, sports and business programming directly to automobiles of subscribers across the United States beginning early next year. The service will cost $9.95 per month plus the special receiver to get the satellites' signals.
This was the sixth and final International Launch Services Proton launch of 2000. It was the 14th Proton mission overall this year including Russian government launches. One more government launch is possible in December when the inaugural Proton M vehicle with its Breeze M upper stage is flown.
2014:47 GMT (3:14:47 p.m. EST)
At T+plus 43 minutes, 50 seconds the first of two firings by the Block DM is scheduled to boost Sirius 3 to toward its intended elliptical orbit around Earth. The second firing is planned at T+plus 2 hours, 3 minutes and 17 seconds.
Separation of Sirius 3 to complete this launch is expected at T+plus 2 hours, 25 minutes and 10 seconds, or 2225 GMT (5:25 p.m. EST).
We will pause our coverage at this time. Check back for confirmation of spacecraft separation later this evening.
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This engine start sequence allows for verification that all six powerplants are running normally before committing the Proton to launch.
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The Sirius 3 spacecraft being launched will be the third in Sirius Satellite Radio's constellation. It will operate in a egg-shaped orbit ranging from 14,900 miles at the low point to 29,200 miles at the high end, inclined 63.4 degrees.
The craft will join Sirius 1 launched in June and Sirius 2 deployed in September to provide 100 channels of digital radio to subcribers across the United States.
Here is a look at the orbital parameters of the Sirius constellation:
Inclination 63.4 deg, ±0.5 deg
1934:47 GMT (2:34:47 p.m. EST)
1926:47 GMT (2:26:47 p.m. EST)
The Proton rocket's first three stages that make up the core vehicle will power the Block DM upper stage and attached spacecraft into a 170-km parking orbit some 9 minutes, 49 seconds after the launch.
The Block DM will conduct the first of two firings at T+plus 43 minutes, 50 seconds to begin the journey into the desired orbit for Sirius 3. The burn will last about six minutes.
A second burn is planned at T+plus 2 hours, 3 minutes, 17 seconds to completed the powered phase of today's launch. The second Block DM firing is expected to last just under two minutes.
Separation of Sirius 3 from the Block DM will occur 2 hours, 25 minutes, 10 seconds after liftoff.
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1915 GMT (2:15 p.m. EST)
The countdown is under computer sequencer control through the remaining time until liftoff. Also, the launch team has provided the final updates to the rocket's guidance computer for today's mission.
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The Sirius 3 satellite will be carried into a highly elliptical, highly inclined orbit around Earth following a two-hour, 25-minute flight of the four-stage Proton/Block DM rocket. Liftoff is set to occur at precisely 1959:47 GMT (2:59:47 p.m. EST) from Complex 81's pad 23 at Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan.
The Proton's mission is managed by International Launch Services -- the joint venture between Lockheed Martin, Khrunchiev and Energia formed in 1995 to market the American Atlas and Russian Proton rockets. This will be the sixth Proton flight for ILS in 2000 and 19th overall.
New York City-based Sirius Satellite Radio is expecting to be the first such company to market digital audio programming directly to automobiles outfitted with special receiving antennas to pick up 100 channels of music, news, sports and entertainment through its fleet of three spacecraft. The first two Sirius satellites were launched aboard Proton rockets in June and September, respectively.
The Sirius service will be available to customers in across the continental United States for a monthly subscription of $9.95 starting early next year.
Such a radio broadcasting system promises to provide seamless, coast-to-coast coverage across the U.S. so that a customer could drive from New York to California and from Chicago to New Orleans and never lose the Sirius satellite signal, the company says.
The satellites are being strategically placed in egg-shaped orbits looping from 14,900 miles at the low point to 29,200 miles at the high end, inclined 63.4 degrees to either side of the equator. The satellites will be spread apart such that two are always in view of the U.S., and as one sets another one rises.
The orbit is unusual for a commercial communications satellites. Normally such satellites fly in circular geostationary orbit 22,300 miles high where the craft can match the Earth's spin and "park" over one spot of the globe.
But since Sirius aims to reach cars driving on the road with man-made and natural obstacles blocking the view to satellites flying above the equator, the special orbit plan was needed. Potential roadblocks are anything from a two-story building to tractor-trailers driving next to you.
Spaceflight Now will provide continuous live status reports during the final countdown and launch on this page. In addition, we will offer a live QuickTime streaming video broadcast starting at 1915 GMT (2:15 p.m. EST).
The International Launch Services Proton rocket lifts off with the Sirius 3 digital radio broadcasting satellite from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan.
PLAY (370k, 34sec QuickTime file)
The first stage of the Proton rocket separates as the second stage ignites while boosting the Sirius 3 satellite into orbit. Source video: ILS (236k, 21sec QuickTime file).
PLAY (236k, 21sec QuickTime file)
Watch the planned sequence of events as the Proton rocket carries the Sirius 3 digital radio broadcasting satellite into orbit.
PLAY (718k, 1min 41sec QuickTime file)
Flight data file
Vehicle: Proton/Block DM
Payload: Sirius 3
Launch date: Nov. 30, 2000
Launch window: 1959:47 GMT (2:59:47 p.m. EST)
Launch site: LC 81, Pad 23, Baikonur Cosmodrome, Kazakhstan
Launch timeline - Chart with times and descriptions of events to occur during the launch.
Proton - Description of the Russian-made rocket used in this launch.
Sirius - Learn more about the Sirius Satellite Radio system, the spacecraft and orbits.
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