ULA to close out 2016 with launch of EchoStar XIX
As 2016 draws to a close, United Launch Alliance (ULA) is busy making final preparations to launch the EchoStar XIX communications satellite on the Atlas V rocket. Liftoff is scheduled for the beginning of a two-hour launch window at 1:27 p.m. EST (18:27 GMT) Dec. 18.
Originally scheduled to launch on Dec. 16, ULA was forced to delay the mission two days due to a hardware issue discovered during final checkout procedures.
EchoStar XIX will be launching on the 431 variant of the Atlas V, which has a 4-meter payload fairing, 3 supplemental solid rocket motors, and a single-engine Centaur stage. This will mark the 12th mission of the year for the Colorado-based launch provider.
The satellite, also known as Jupiter 2, arrived at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in early November 2016, where it has since undergone processing in preparation for its launch on Dec. 18, 2016.
With the satellite broadband market in North America already over-subscribed, the capacity provided by the Hughes Network Systems (Hughes) satellite will furnish urgently needed bandwidth to a growing market.
“EchoStar XIX will provide us with added capacity to meet the burgeoning demand for HughesNet high-speed satellite Internet service,” said Pradman Kaul, president of Hughes, in a November press release, “and we look forward to next month’s launch with great anticipation.”
The satellite, built by Space Systems Loral (SSL) on their 1300-series platform, will significantly increase the amount of bandwidth available to support satellite broadband customers in North America. With 1 million subscribers and still growing, Hughes has a ready market waiting for EchoStar XIX to come online.
SSL is no stranger to high-capacity communication satellites. The company’s EchoStar XVII satellite, which is also based on the 1300-series platform, currently serves North America with satellite broadband service. EchoStar XIX, however, will have substantially more capacity than its stablemate.
“We worked closely to develop one of the world’s highest capacity satellites on orbit today and it has been our pleasure to further advance satellite’s capability with EchoStar XIX, which will bring the benefits of quality, high-speed internet service to families and businesses,” said SSL president John Celli.
Unlike EchoStar XVII, EchoStar XIX will be launching from Florida rather than French Guiana. Due to the increase in mass of the satellite, combined with Hughes’s need to procure a launch date in late 2016, the company decided to shift launch services to ULA from Arianespace, contracted through Lockheed Martin Commercial Launch Services.
While ULA’s Atlas V may carry a greater initial price tag, that differential is more than offset by the Atlas’s ability to place its payload in a more beneficial orbit, thus prolonging the useful life of the satellite and bringing its capacity online more quickly.
In fact, this very scenario was touted by ULA’s president and CEO, Tory Bruno, when he unveiled the company’s Rocket Builder website.
The L-3 forecast from the 45th Weather Squadron at Patrick Air Force Base currently indicates a 70 percent chance of favorable weather for the opening of the two-hour launch window, with the primary concern being cumulus clouds.
Liftoff will occur from Space Launch Complex 41 (SLC-41) at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station. Live coverage will be provided on ULA’s YouTube channel.
Curt Godwin has been a fan of space exploration for as long as he can remember, keeping his eyes to the skies from an early age. Initially majoring in Nuclear Engineering, Curt later decided that computers would be a more interesting - and safer - career field. He's worked in education technology for more than 20 years, and has been published in industry and peer journals, and is a respected authority on wireless network engineering. Throughout this period of his life, he maintained his love for all things space and has written about his experiences at a variety of NASA events, both on his personal blog and as a freelance media representative.
EchoStar XVI, launched in November of 2012, had a rather unique “passenger” attached to it: