Proton booster delivers Canadian satellite to space
BY JUSTIN RAY
Posted: April 10, 2007
Eleven years to the day since the Russian Proton rocket began flying under the marketing banner of International Launch Services, the heavy-duty booster overnight successfully heaved a 10,200-pound Canadian telecommunications satellite into Earth orbit.
The first launch in 1996 hauled an ASTRA direct-to-home TV broadcasting satellite to serve Europe. Monday night's mission lofted the Anik F3 spacecraft, a powerful bird to be operated in geostationary orbit by Telesat Canada of Ottawa.
The extraordinarily long ascent began at 2254 GMT (6:54 p.m. EDT) as the six first stage main engines powered the 19-story rocket away from the pad 39. Tracking cameras at the cosmodrome followed the rocket's fiery golden tail flashing through the partly cloudy predawn skies of central Asia.
Within 10 minutes, the Proton had fired its three lower stages and released the Breeze M motor with the attached cargo to begin a sequence of maneuvers over the following nine hours. The five burns by the upper stage engine pushed the rocket step-by-step into the intended elliptical orbit stretching 22,200 miles at its highest point, 3,400 miles at its lowest and inclined 11 degrees to the equator.
Controllers will oversee several carefully-planned uses of the satellite's onboard engine to circularize the orbit where it will match Earth's rotation and appear fixed above one spot of the globe.
Anik F3's destination is a space slot at 118.7 degrees West longitude over the equator, taking Telesat's most-western orbital location, said Dan Goldberg, the company's president and CEO. That vantage point will enable the satellite to fulfill its 15-year mission to provide television, Internet and business communications across North America.
The craft should be ready to enter service next month, added Paul Bush, Telesat's vice president of broadcasting and corporate development.
The U.S. EchoStar direct-to-home TV company will be the prime user of the Ku-band capacity. The C-band is available for high-definition TV and other broadcasting and the small Ka-band system will augment two-way Internet services already available via the Anik F2 sister satellite.
"Anik F3 will make substantial financial and operational contributions to Telesat going forward and underscores our dedication to growing our business and providing robust and reliable satellite services to citizens throughout Canada and the rest of North America," Goldberg said.
Anik F3 becomes Telesat's 17th satellite and Astrium's 33rd Eurostar in orbit. The launch marked the fourth time Telesat has used ILS Proton vehicles to deploy a satellite and the sixth Astrium E3000 to ride the Russian rocket.
"We believe that performance builds customer confidence and paves the way to long-term relationships," said Frank McKenna, the president of ILS.
The next commercial Proton launch is anticipated in June carrying a broadcasting satellite for DirecTV.
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