Spaceflight Now: Proton launch report

Radio broadcasting satellite launched by Proton rocket

Posted: September 5, 2000

The Proton rocket lifts off from Baikonur with Sirius 2. Photo: ILS
Americans are a step closer to receiving digital radio programming via satellite with today's successful launch of a Russian Proton rocket half a world away in Central Asia.

The second Sirius Satellite Radio spacecraft, aptly called Sirius 2, was blasted into a highly elliptical, highly inclined orbit around Earth by the three-stage Proton core vehicle and Block DM upper stage. Liftoff occurred at precisely 0943:58.022 GMT (5:43:58.022 a.m. EDT) from pad 23 of Baikonur Cosmodrome's Complex 81.

The Proton took off into a clear afternoon sky, and just under 10 minutes later delivered the upper stage motor and satellite into a low-altitude parking orbit.

Over the course of 2 1/2 hours, the Block DM fired twice to boost Sirius 2 into the intended egg-shaped looping orbit around the planet.

With the Space Systems/Loral-built satellite now flying on its own, controllers will guide the craft into its final orbital perch, deploy the power-generating solar arrays and communications antennas and conduct a thorough series of checkouts in the coming weeks.

Sirius 2 will join its sister-satellite Sirius 1 launched in June, and later by Sirius 3 due for its ride aboard another Proton rocket this fall, to relay 100 channels of digital audio programming to special receivers fitted to cars across the United States.

Service could begin by year's end.

For $9.95 per month, subscribers will get music, news, sports and entertainment programming directly from the orbiting satellites to their automobiles. Sirius customers will be able to listen to the programming in seamless, coast-to-coast coverage, allowing someone to drive across the country and never lose a channel's signal.

  Sirius 1
An artist's concept of a Sirius satellite in space. Photo: SS/L
"Sirius is another example of how satellites are becoming more and more a part of our everyday life," said Robert Prevaux, executive director the Sirius Satellite Radio program. "It is the birth of a new industry."

Fifty of the Sirius channels will be dedicated to various types of music. The other channels will carry content provided by the likes of CNBC, National Public Radio, Outdoor Life Networks, Sports Byline USA, Speedvision, USA Networks/SCI FI Channel, the BBC and Hispanic Radio Network.

Sirius is currently building a team of disc jockeys and behind-the-scenes staff to run the system from its broadcasting facility in New York City's Rockefeller Center.

Sirius has entered into agreements with automobile manufacturers DaimlerChrysler, BMW, Ford, Jaguar, Mazda and Volvo to factory-install the satellite receivers, some beginning with the upcoming model year. That will account for up to 7 million vehicles per year, or half of the American production line.

But you can expect only the more expensive editions of the cars to come with the satellite receiver already installed at first.

For owners wanting to retrofit their existing cars, there will be two options costing under $199. One will be replacing the existing car radio with a Sirius system; the other would be buying an adapter that will bring the satellite signal into your current radio via the FM input.

The Proton rocket rolls to the launch pad just after sunrise late last week. Photo: ILS TV/Spaceflight Now
Today's Proton mission was managed by International Launch Services -- the joint Russian/American venture formed five years ago to global market Proton and Atlas rockets.

The ILS partners are Atlas-maker Lockheed Martin, Proton manufacturer Khrunchiev and Block DM producer Energia.

This was the 10th Proton flight of 2000, the third of which to be conducted under the auspices of ILS. It also marked the 280th Proton flown since the vehicle's debut in 1965 and the 16th overall for ILS.

Five more Protons are set to fly later this year including three ILS missions: Sirius 3 and GE Americom's GE-1A and GE-6 communications satellites. The other two flights will be governed by the Russians.

Flight data file
Vehicle: Proton/Block DM
Payload: Sirius 2
Launch date: Sept. 5, 2000
Launch window: 0943:58 GMT (5:43:58 a.m. EDT)
Launch site: LC 81, Pad 23, Baikonur Cosmodrome, Kazakhstan

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.

Sirius - Learn more about the Sirius Satellite Radio system, the spacecraft and orbits.

The Russian-built Proton rocket blasts off on Sept. 5 carrying the second Sirius Radio satellite.
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Watch the planned sequence of events as the Proton rocket carries the Sirius 2 digital radio broadcasting satellite into orbit.
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The International Launch Services Proton rocket lifts off with the Sirius 1 satellite from Kazakhstan in June.
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The Proton's spent first stage is jettisoned just over two minutes into the flight as the second stage engines ignited in June.
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