The fifth Russian launch in just over eight days blasted off the pad at 9:30pm EST (2:30am UK time), with the lift-off of the American AMC-23 (WorldSat-3) communications satellite, placed on board the powerful Proton-M launch vehicle with Briz-M upper stage – from the Baikonur Cosmodrome.
Scheduled to replace Spacenet 4, the hybrid C/Ku-band satellite will serve customers throughout the Pacific Region, including North America, Asia, Australia, New Zealand, Indonesia and the islands of the South Pacific for SES Americom.
Launch in progress, see live thread link at the end of this article.
Current status: Hugely impressive lift-off of the powerful launch vehicle. All three stages of the Proton-M have seperated, with the Briz-M stage now firing the payload into a parking orbit. Over the coming hours Briz-M will go through a series of four engine firings to take its payload into the geosynchronous transfer.
6:48am EST (11:48am UK time) is the expected time for spacecraft seperation.
Update: ILS confirm spacecraft seperation following a nominal flight. 9 hours 20 minutes after launch.
Information: AMC-23 arrived at Baikonur on November 4 and was due to launch earlier in the month. However, after a rescheduling, the satellite will now be the final launch of the year.
The Proton launch vehicle will inject the satellite into geosynchronous transfer orbit, using a five-burn Breeze M mission design.
The first three stages of the Proton will use a standard ascent trajectory to place the Breeze M fourth stage, with the satellite, into a suborbital trajectory, from which the Breeze M will place itself and the spacecraft into a support or reference orbit of 173 km (107 miles), inclined at 51.5 degrees.
Then the satellite will be propelled to its transfer orbit by additional burns of the Breeze M. Following separation from the Breeze M, the spacecraft will perform a series of liquid apogee engine burns to raise perigee, lower inclination and circularize the orbit at the geostationary altitude of 36,000 km (22,300 miles).
Spacecraft separation will occur approximately 9 hours, 20 minutes after lift-off.
This launch was the fourth ILS (International Launch Services) Proton mission this year, the 11th launch by ILS vehicle for SES AMERICOM fleet – and the 35th ILS mission on Proton. The Proton has an impressive 317 launches already in the bag.
Make that 318….
Live news, images and video feed can be seen here: