Spaceflight Now: Atlas launch report

EchoStar 6 TV satellite delivered to orbit by Atlas

Posted: July 14, 2000

The Atlas rocket's liquid-fueled engines roar to life moments before the ground-lit solid rocket boosters ignited. Photo: Lockheed Martin video/Spaceflight Now
Lockheed Martin's commercial Atlas rocket fleet kept its long-running success streak unblemished this morning by lofting into space the most powerful direct broadcasting satellite.

The Atlas 2AS rocket began the $250 million mission right on schedule at 1:21 a.m. EDT (0521 GMT) from pad 36B at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida.

Just under a half-hour later, while flying high above the Atlantic Ocean just west of Africa, the EchoStar 6 direct-to-home television relay spacecraft was released into the planned elliptical geosynchronous transfer orbit around Earth.

The success marked the 52nd in a row for Atlas rockets dating back to 1993. In addition, the Atlas 2AS vehicle has now conducted all 20 of its launches without fault.

EchoStar 6 will perform four altitude raising maneuvers over the next week, boosting itself into a circular geostationary orbit 22,300 miles above Earth where five sister-craft currently fly.

Testing and checkout will follow through mid-August at the 148-degree West longitude orbital slot. SS/L then plans to hand control of the satellite to EchoStar, which will in turn move the craft to its operational perch at 119 degrees.

The Atlas rocket lifts off at 1:21 a.m. EDT. Photo: Lockheed Martin video/Spaceflight Now
When EchoStar 6 enters serve in mid-September, the satellite will be used to beam television and music programming to subscribers of the DISH Network system.

DISH Network currently offers over 500 channels of TV to its 10 million viewers across the United States.

EchoStar 6 will allow around 20 more channels to be added to DISH's continental U.S. lineup, while doubling the number of channels to Alaska and Hawaii to about 200. The craft will also aid in EchoStar's efforts to bring local TV broadcast channels to subscribers in over 30 cities, allowing the company to compete more successfully with cable TV.

The craft is also an insurance policy of sorts, allowing EchoStar to have a backup plan already in place if another satellite should malfunction in space.

Two older satellites currently at the 119-degree orbital position -- EchoStar 1 and 2 -- will be split up and moved to other slots once EchoStar 6 assumes that prime vantage point this fall.

A tracking camera shows the Atlas' climb into the night sky. Photo: Lockheed Martin video/Spaceflight Now
EchoStar 1 will go to 148 degrees for use in relaying educational and language programming to the western U.S., while EchoStar 2 becomes an in-orbit spare.

EchoStar 5 will remain parked at 110 degrees, and together with EchoStar 6 continue providing the 500 TV channel package. EchoStar 4 is also slated to stay at its 61.5 degrees slot to cover the eastern U.S.

EchoStar has three more satellites under construction with launches due in 2001 and 2002. The craft should allow for even more local TV channels, upwards of 60 to 70 markets, and other features including Internet services.

After conducting six launches the first half of 2000, two of which have occurred in as many weeks, Lockheed Martin's Atlas program will take a breather until October, partly because of satellite-related delays.

The next launch is scheduled for October 12 when the U.S. Air Force Defense Satellite Communications System B11 spacecraft will ride into orbit atop an Atlas 2A rocket.

Flight data file
Vehicle: Atlas 2AS (AC-161)
Payload: EchoStar 6
Launch date: July 14, 2000
Launch window: 0521-0720 GMT (1:21-3:20 a.m. EDT)
Launch site: SLC-36B, Cape Canaveral, Fla.

Flight profile
Track the major launch events for the Atlas 2AS rocket carrying the EchoStar 6 satellite on Spaceflight Now's interactive flight profile page (requires JavaScript).

Pre-launch briefing
Launch preview - Read our story for a complete preview of the EchoStar 6 launch.

Launch timeline - Chart with times and descriptions of events to occur during the launch.

Atlas 2AS vehicle data - Overview of the rocket that will launch EchoStar 6 into space.

EchoStar 6 - Description of the satellite to be launched on AC-161.

Video vault
The Lockheed Martin Atlas 2AS rocket lifts off from Cape Canaveral to deliver the EchoStar 6 satellite into orbit.
  PLAY (314k, 34sec QuickTime file)
Watch a movie about the planned sequence of events as the Atlas 2AS rocket carries the EchoStar 6 TV satellite into orbit.
  PLAY (1.0M, 2min 32sec QuickTime file)
An in-depth look at the Lockheed Martin Atlas 2AS rocket and Centaur upper stage that will launch EchoStar 6.
  PLAY (461k, 1min 03sec QuickTime file)

Learn more about the EchoStar 6 direct-to-home TV satellite that will expand services for DISH Network subscribers.
  PLAY (515k, 46sec QuickTime file)
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