ILS Proton M launches with EchoStar XIV satellite

by Chris Bergin

International Launch Services (ILS) have launched the EchoStar XIV telecommunications satellite via their veteran Proton-M launch vehicle and Breeze-M upper stage on Saturday. Lift-off from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan was on time at 18:26 GMT, ahead of over nine hours of flight until the spacecraft was successfully released into orbit. Meanwhile, ILS have made three contract announcements for launches in 2011 and 2012 – taking their backlog to 22 missions.

Launch Preview:

The Proton booster is 4.1 m (13.5 ft) in diameter along its second and third stages, with a first stage diameter of 7.4 m (24.3 ft). Overall height of the three stages of the Proton booster is 42.3 m (138.8 ft).

The first stage consists of a central tank containing the oxidizer surrounded by six outboard fuel tanks. Each fuel tank also carries one of the six RD-276 engines that provide first stage power. Total first stage vacuum-rated level thrust is 11.0 MN (2,500,000 lbf).

Of conventional cylindrical design, the second stage is powered by three RD-0210 engines plus one RD-0211 engine and develops a vacuum thrust of 2.4 MN (540,000 lbf).

Powered by one RD-0213 engine, the third stage develops thrust of 583 kN (131,000 lbf), and a four-nozzle vernier engine that produces thrust of 31 kN (7,000 lbf). Guidance, navigation, and control of the Proton M during operation of the first three stages is carried out by a triple redundant closed-loop digital avionics system mounted in the Proton’s third stage.

The Breeze-M upper stage is the Phase III variant, which sports a new configuration of the avionics bay due to the use of two new high-pressure tanks (80 liters) to replace six smaller tanks, and relocation of command instruments towards the centre – in order to mitigate shock loads when the additional propellant tank is being jettisoned.

The changes also include the replacement of metal bottles for helium with those manufactured using composite materials; use of additional propellant tank with an upgraded prime structure, and the replacement of existing vernier thrusters via upgraded higher specific impulse thrusters.

The Proton and the Breeze M are built by Khrunichev State Research and Production Space Center.

“Khrunichev successfully demonstrated the Proton Phase III capability addressing our primary focus on the heavy lift market,” added ILS president Frank McKenna. “This added capability underscores Proton’s flexibility and translates to real value for our customers.

“Additionally, we have utilized this capability to offer Proton ‘Duo’ designed to lower launch costs in the lighter satellite market with the launch of two Orbital satellites, for a single customer. “

The Proton M launch vehicle, utilizing a 5-burn Breeze M mission design, will lift off from Pad 39 at Baikonur Cosmodrome, Kazakhstan, with the EchoStar XIV satellite on board. The first three stages of the Proton will use a standard ascent profile to place the orbital unit (Breeze M upper stage and the EchoStar XIV satellite) into a sub-orbital trajectory.

From this point in the mission, the Breeze M will perform planned mission maneuvers to advance the orbital unit first to a circular parking orbit, then to an intermediate orbit, followed by a transfer orbit, and finally to a geosynchronous transfer orbit. Separation of the EchoStar XIV satellite is scheduled to occur approximately 9 hours, 10 minutes after liftoff.

The EchoStar XIV satellite will join DISH Network’s fleet of satellites that serve more than 14 million satellite TV customers in the U.S. From its location at 119 degrees west longitude, EchoStar XIV will provide Ku-band services over the continental United States.

The DISH Network fleet has the capacity to deliver hundreds of the highest quality video and audio channels, including the most HD in the country.

With 103 Ku-Band transponders, the Space Systems/Loral Satellite is anticipated to have a service life of 15 years

The launch is the 58th of the ILS Proton. This mission is carrying the third EchoStar Satellite Launched on ILS Proton, the 14th Space Systems/Loral Satellite, and weighs in as the heaviest commercial satellite launched on the ILS vehicle.

ILS Order Book:

ILS also announced two firm missions with the ILS Proton launches of the Intelsat 21 satellite and the Intelsat 23 satellite for Intelsat SA. Intelsat 21 is under construction by Boeing Space and Intelligence Systems with a launch planned in early 2012. The Intelsat 23 satellite is being built by Orbital Sciences Corporation, and is slated to launch in late 2011.

Both missions are part of the Intelsat Multi-Launch Agreement which provides Intelsat the flexibility to substitute another satellite for the Intelsat 21 satellite, or to exercise an additional launch service for this mission.

“With the successful launch of the Intelsat 16 satellite just over a month ago, ILS and Khrunichev are proud to be partnering with Intelsat once again with the Intelsat 21 and Intelsat 23 missions. With ILS Proton, we were able to offer Intelsat unmatched flexibility to accommodate these two missions,” noted Mr McKenna.

“The recent launch of Intelsat 16 and these assignments represent the kind of confidence that has made us a preferred launch provider with the largest satellite operator in the world. We look forward to performing flawlessly on both of these new missions for Intelsat to support their continued growth and expansion.”

The Intelsat 21 satellite, weighing 6,300 kg, will be built on the Boeing 702B platform and will be launched aboard an ILS Proton utilizing a 65,000 km super-synchronous transfer orbit. The Intelsat 21 satellite will replace the Intelsat 9 satellite located at 302 degrees East and will provide C- and Ku-band capacity for broadband, video and voice applications with coverage over the Americas and Europe.

The Intelsat 23 satellite, weighing 2,730 kg, will be built on the flight proven Orbital Star 2.4E platform with an ILS Proton providing a direct injection into geostationary orbit. Intelsat 23 will provide communications services for the Americas, Europe and Africa with C- and Ku-band coverage at 307 degrees East.

ILS also recently announced a deal to launch Telesat’s Nimiq 6 satellite in mid-2012.

Nimiq 6 is an all Ku-band satellite with 32 high power transponders that will be located at 91 degrees West Longitude. The 5 metric ton spacecraft is now under construction at Space Systems/Loral and will utilize their flight proven 1300 platform over its planned mission life of 15 years. Nimiq 6 is fully leased to Bell TV for the satellite’s lifetime.

“Since our first Nimiq satellite on an ILS Proton, Telesat has counted on ILS to deliver the reliability and on-time performance that have made them an industry leader,” said Dan Goldberg, Telesat’s President and CEO. “We look forward to working closely with ILS, Khrunichev and Space Systems/Loral on the successful launch of Nimiq 6 in mid-2012.”

ILS are already setting a target of seven to right commercial missions will launch this year, along with three to five Federal missions. ILS claim to have a backlog of 22 satellites prior to EchoStar XIV’s launch.

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