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Proton Launches DIRECTV Satellite.


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Proton rocket.
Proton rocket launching with DIRECTV 8 satellite. Image credit: ILS.

A Russian Proton rocket lifted off from the Baikonur Cosmodrome on Sunday, carrying the DIRECTV 8 broadcast satellite into orbit. The rocket launched at 1759 UTC (1:59 p.m. EDT), and the Breeze M upper stage continued to place it into a geosynchronous transfer orbit 9 hours and 15 minutes later. DIRECTV 8 will augment the existing broadcast satellites stationed above 101 degrees west longitude.

A Russian Proton Breeze M launcher placed the DIRECTV 8 satellite into orbit today, marking the fourth successful mission of the year for International Launch Services (ILS).

The Proton vehicle lifted off at 11:59 p.m. local time (1:59 p.m. EDT, 17:59 GMT). It continued its climb through space for nine hours and 15 minutes, after which time the satellite separated from the rocket into an elliptical geosynchronous transfer orbit. satellite controllers confirm that DIRECTV 8 is functioning properly. Over the next ten days the satellite will be maneuvered into a circular geosynchronous orbit, 22,300 miles (36,000 km) above the equator.

"We're pleased that DIRECTV chose ILS and Proton to launch this important satellite, which will provide support for the expansion of new digital and high-definition services," said ILS President Mark Albrecht.

The DIRECTV 8 satellite, built by Space Systems/Loral, carries both Ku-band and Ka-band payloads. Its final operating position is 101 degrees West longitude.

"We congratulate the ILS launch team on their flawless execution in placing DIRECTV 8 into orbit today," said Jim Butterworth, senior vice president, Communication Systems, DIRECTV, Inc. "DIRECTV 8 will play an important role in strengthening our satellite fleet and the rollout of new services for our more than 14.4 million customers."

ILS markets launches and manages the missions on both the Russian Proton and the American Atlas rockets. The Proton vehicle is built by Khrunichev State Research and Production Space Center, and the Atlas is manufactured by Lockheed Martin (NYSE:LMT). This is the second spacecraft ILS has launched for DIRECTV on Proton; the previous launch was DIRECTV 5 in 2002. The Atlas vehicle also has launched two satellites for DIRECTV: DBS 2 and DIRECTV 6, in 1994 and 1997, respectively.

ILS is the global leader in launch services. With a remarkable launch rate of 74 missions since 2000, the Atlas and Proton launch vehicles have consistently demonstrated the reliability and flexibility that have made them preferred choice among satellite operators worldwide. Since the beginning of 2003, ILS has signed more new commercial contracts than all of its competitors combined. ILS was formed in 1995, and is based in McLean, Va., a suburb of Washington, D.C.

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