Spaceflight Now: Proton launch report

Proton adds new craft to ASTRA satellite system

Posted: June 16, 2001

A new broadcasting spacecraft was propelled into Earth orbit on Saturday to join the ASTRA direct-to-home TV satellite system serving over 87 million homes across Europe.

Series of images from today's launch of the Proton rocket. Photos: Spaceflight Now/ILS TV
A commercial Proton rocket lifted off at 0149 GMT (9:49 p.m. EDT Friday) from Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan for a near seven-hour mission to place the ASTRA 2C satellite into geosynchronous transfer orbit.

The first three stages of the Proton rocket carried the Block DM upper stage and attached ASTRA 2C satellite into a parking orbit with a perigee altitude of 179 kilometers and an apogee altitude of 215 kilometers with an inclination of 51.6 degrees, officials reported.

After an hour-long coast, the Block DM was ignited and raised the apogee altitude to 35,836 kilometers. The vehicle then coasted up to that high point over the course of five hours before the upper stage reignited to raise the perigee altitude to 7,700 kilometers and reduce the inclination from 51.6 degrees to 16.0 degrees.

Separation of the spacecraft occurred at 0844 GMT (4:44 a.m. EDT) at T+plus 6 hours, 55 minutes.

Ground controllers quickly established contact with ASTRA 2C via a tracking station in Sydney, Australia, confirming that the spacecraft is alive and well following its arrival in space.

A series of orbital raising maneuvers are ahead for the Boeing-built satellite before it can join Societe Europeenne des Satellites' ASTRA constellation to provide direct-to-home television, radio, multimedia and Internet services across Europe.

More than 87 million homes in 29 European countries have the ASTRA system, meaning 9 out of every 10 cable or satellite homes across Europe receive ASTRA transmissions, Luxembourg-based SES says.

ASTRA 2C is the twelfth SES satellite in the ASTRA series and it will be the fourth to be permanently co-located at the orbital position of 28.2 degrees East over the equator in geostationary orbit. But SES plans to initially park ASTRA 2C at its other orbital slot -- 19.2 degrees East -- until the ASTRA 1K satellite is launched later this year.

"With ASTRA 1A approaching the end of its expected lifetime after close to 13 years of successful operations in orbit, SES has decided to deploy ASTRA 2C temporarily at 19.2 degrees East," said Romain Bausch, director general of SES.

An artist's concept of ASTRA 2C. Photo: Boeing
"The 12th ASTRA spacecraft can thus provide additional back-up capacity within SES' comprehensive inter-satellite protection scheme, once again demonstrating the unique quality of the ASTRA satellite system."

After reaching geostationary orbit and undergoing a thorough checkout period, ASTRA 2C should enter service in about five weeks.

The plan calls for orbit raising maneuvers to be performed by the satellite's apogee kick engine during the 5th, 8th, 10th, 12th and 13th orbits of Earth. The satellite's solar panels and its communications antennas will be deployed approximately 11 days into the mission.

ASTRA 2C features 40 Ku-band transponders, each with 98.5-w minimum traveling wave tube amplifiers. When the satellite goes into service, 32 transponders will be operational, with 28 used at the end of the 15-year design life.

Today's launch marked the fifth time an ASTRA satellite has rode into orbit atop a Proton rocket. The missions were all conducted under the auspices of International Launch Services -- the joint U.S./Russian venture formed in 1995 to globally market the American Atlas and Russian Proton rockets.

"We celebrate another excellent launch for Proton and Societe Europeenne des Satellites (SES)," said ILS President Mark Albrecht. "An ASTRA satellite was the first commercial customer for Proton, in April 1996, and I'm pleased that we have maintained our perfect record through five ASTRA launches. We look forward to repeating our success when Proton launches ASTRA 1K toward the end of this year."

Albrecht added, "With Proton's inventory of vehicles and rapid launch tempo, and our launch team's familiarity with this customer and the Boeing 601HP satellite model, we were able to provide SES an Express Launch."

Flight data file
Vehicle: Proton/Block DM
Payload: ASTRA 2C
Launch date: June 16, 2001
Launch time: 0149 GMT (9:49 p.m. EDT on June 15)
Launch site: LC 81, Pad 23, Baikonur Cosmodrome, Kazakhstan
Satellite broadcast: Telstar 5, Trans. 23, C-band

Pre-launch briefing
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.

ASTRA 2C - Learn more about the Proton's satellite cargo.