Spaceflight Now: Breaking News

First ICO satellite to fly aboard Sea Launch in March
Posted: Feb. 29, 2000

  ICO satellite
An artist's concept of an ICO satellite orbiting Earth. Photo: Hughes Space and Communications
ICO Global Communications, the global mobile communications company, announced Monday that the first spacecraft in its series of global communications satellites is scheduled for launch aboard a Sea Launch vehicle on March 12.

A 200-foot Sea Launch rocket will lift the 6,000 pound ICO F-1 mobile communications satellite, built by Hughes Space & Communications Company, into middle Earth orbit (MEO) from a site at 154 degrees west longitude at the equator, about 200 nautical miles east of Christmas Island in the Pacific Ocean.

The launch window opens at 7:49 a.m. Pacific Standard Time (3:49 p.m. London time; 10:49 a.m. EST) March 12.

"The launch of ICO's first satellite will represent a tangible milestone for our employees, our vendors and our company, which has undergone a transformation over the past six months," said Richard Greco, ICO's chief executive officer. "With the recent progress we have made in our financial restructuring led by Craig McCaw, ICO is now focusing on the business of building a system that will offer seamless, high-quality communications services to customers worldwide. The upcoming launch of ICO F-1 is an important first step toward making this dream a reality."

Hughes Space & Communications is the prime contractor for the space segment of the ICO system. The ICO satellites are enhanced versions of the Hughes HS 601 flight-proven spacecraft, weighing just over 6,000 pounds (2,750 kilograms) at launch. ICO's 10 operational satellites will orbit at an altitude of 10,390 kilometers -- five in each of two orthogonal planes, each inclined at 45 degrees to the equator -- to provide complete, overlapping coverage of the Earth. The satellites are designed to operate for at least 12 years. Besides building the ICO satellites, Hughes also arranged the launch services.

The Sea Launch Commander and Odyssey launch platform at sea during tests last year. Photo: William Hartenstein
On the weekend of February 26 and 27, both the Sea Launch Commander, a floating mission control center and rocket assembly factory, and the Odyssey, a self-propelled launch platform, departed the Sea Launch Home Port in Long Beach, Calif. The Sea Launch Zenit-3SL rocket that will deliver the ICO F-1 satellite into space sits in an environmentally controlled hangar onboard the Odyssey. Transit of both vessels from Long Beach to the equator is expected to take about 11 days.

Upon arrival at the launch site, the Odyssey will be partially submerged for additional stability. The Sea Launch rocket will then be withdrawn from its hangar, lifted into a vertical position, fueled with kerosene and liquid oxygen, and launched via remote control from the Sea Launch Commander. Prior to the start of the automated fueling process, the Odyssey crew will be transferred to the Sea Launch Commander and transported approximately six kilometers away.

In October 1999, telecommunications pioneer Craig McCaw and his affiliates, Teledesic and Eagle River Investments LLC, agreed to lead a group of investors that will provide up to $1.2 billion to ICO to enable the company to emerge from bankruptcy. On Feb. 4, McCaw, Teledesic and Eagle River completed a definitive agreement to proceed, and initiated a $275 million second round investment in ICO.

When ICO begins operations, it will provide a wide range of global mobile voice and data services.

  Inaugural launch
The inaugural flight of Sea Launch lifts off from Pacific Ocean site in March 1999. Photo: Sea Launch

About Sea Launch
Building on proven performance and flight-tested hardware, Sea Launch combines the world's premier aerospace and marine expertise to provide satellite and end-user customers with superior value, performance and fully integrated commercial launch service capabilities. The Sea Launch global partnership includes Boeing Commercial Space Company, Kent, Washington (provides spacecraft integration and payload accommodations, and management of overall Home Port operations); the Anglo-Norwegian Kvaerner Group of Oslo, Norway (provides marine engineering and operations); RSC Energia of Moscow, Russia (provides the Block-DM upper stage and its integration with the launch vehicle); and KB Yuzhnoye/PO Yuzhmash of Ukraine (provides the first two stages of the launch vehicle).

ICO Global Communications was established in January 1995 as a private company to provide global mobile personal communications services by satellite, including digital voice, data, facsimile, high-penetration notification, and messaging services. ICO Global Communications was listed on Nasdaq in July 1998. The stock was delisted from Nasdaq on Dec. 16, 1999, following suspension of trading after the company filed for Chapter 11 protection on August 27, 1999.

Explore the Net
ICO - ICO Global Communications corporate Web site.

Sea Launch - Official Web site of the international Sea Launch consortium.

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