Sea Launch Zenit 3SL lofts DIRECTV 11

by Chris Bergin

A Sea Launch Zenit 3SL has launched for the second time since its 2007 failure, carrying the DIRECTV 11 HD TV Satellite. Lift-off – in very cloudy conditions – was at 22:48 UTC.

DIRECTV 11, with a mass of a 5923 kg (13,058 lb), is one of three recent Boeing 702-model spacecraft built for DIRECTV and is among the largest and most powerful Ka-band satellites built to date.

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Mission background:

The Zenit 3SL is a hybrid concept developed by RSC Energia, originally designed to replace the Proton K/DM vehicle. The two stage Zenit features a modified Russian Block DM upper stage.

Sea Launch returned to flight in January, following the failed launch which occurred with the NSS-8 communications satellite for SES New Skies, after the vehicle exploded on the launch pad, destroying both the vehicle and satellite.

That success came via the launch of the Thuraya 3 telecommunications satellite for the United Arab Emirates – a year after the NSS-8 failure.

DIRECTV 11, combined with the DIRECTV 10 satellite already in orbit, will provide DIRECTV with the capacity for 150 national HD channels and will be capable of supporting spot beams carrying 1,500 local HD channels.

DIRECTV 11 will continue DIRECTV’s massive capacity expansion and further strengthen its position as the leading provider of HD programming in the United States. This is the fourth mission Sea Launch will execute for DIRECTV. Previous satellites include Spaceway 1 (April 26, 2005), DIRECTV 7S (May 4, 2004) and DIRECTV 1R (October 9, 1999).

The Zenit-3SL launch vehicle will lift the satellite to an optimized geosynchronous transfer orbit (GTO), on its way to a final orbital position of 57 degrees East Longitude.

Lifting off from the Odyssey Launch Platform at 154 degrees West Longitude, a Zenit-3SL rocket will place the DIRECTV 11 satellite into Geosynchronous Transfer Orbit, with the spacecraft separating from the upper stage at 2130 km (1,323 miles) above the Indian Ocean.

Two-and-a-half minutes after lift-off, the first stage and then the payload fairing will be jettisoned. Five minutes later, the second stage will separate from the Block DM upper stage. After the first burn of the Block DM, the spacecraft will coast for 30 minutes over the Pacific Ocean, South America and the Atlantic Ocean.

Following this coast, the Block DM will execute a second burn for about seven minutes and then coast again for about ten minutes until spacecraft separation over the Indian Ocean. Boeing Satellite Systems expects to acquire a signal from the spacecraft at a ground station in Hartebeesthoek, South Africa.

With a designed lifetime of 15 years, the satellite will ultimately be positioned in Geostationary Orbit, 35,786 km (22,236 miles) above the Earth, at 99.2 degrees West Longitude.

Established in 1995, the Sea Launch consortium is owned by Boeing, Kvaerner ASA of Oslo, Norway, Yuzhmash of Dnepropetrovsk, Ukraine, and RSC-Energia of Moscow.

Full mission background is available on the live event page – linked above.

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