BAIKONUR COSMODROME, Kazakhstan, July 7, 2007 – International Launch Services (ILS) successfully launched the DIRECTV 10 satellite today using an enhanced version of Russia's premier vehicle, the Proton.
The Proton Breeze M rocket lifted off at 7:16 a.m. today local time (9:16 p.m. Friday EDT, 01:16 today GMT) from the Cosmodrome's Pad 39. The mission lasted 9 hours and 8 minutes, before the Breeze M upper stage placed the DIRECTV 10 satellite into a geosynchronous transfer orbit. After about two months of in-orbit testing, the satellite will move to its operating position of 102.8 degrees West longitude to enhance DIRECTV's high-definition services across the United States, including Alaska and Hawaii.
"We're proud of the excellent performance of our Enhanced Proton Breeze M and its demonstrated ability to lift such a massive payload as the DIRECTV 10 satellite," said ILS President Frank McKenna. "At around 6 metric tons, this Boeing 702 model was the heaviest spacecraft launch for Proton."
McKenna continued: "Not only are we proud of the vehicle's performance, we're also proud of our schedule performance. We met our commitment to launch the satellite in order to support DIRECTV's goal of delivering up to 100 national HDTV channels by the end of the year."
This was the 41st mission for ILS, which is an American-based joint venture of Space Transport Inc. and Russia's Khrunichev State Research and Production Space Center, manufacturer of the Proton vehicle.
The Proton enhancements demonstrated with this launch culminate two years of research, development and testing by Khrunichev, one of the cornerstones of the Russian space industry. While the primary purpose was to meet the requirements of ILS commercial customers and their larger satellites, the enhanced vehicle will ultimately be used for Russian federal missions as well.
Modern design tools allowed Khrunichev to fine-tune such things as fuel tanks, and redesign them to remove mass while maintaining safety margins. Lighter materials were used between the rocket's stages, and graphite epoxy sections replaced metal interstage adapters. Additionally, the Breeze M reaction control system (RCS) has been improved. As part of this, the RCS fuel tanks were reduced in number from six to only two. "Reducing the number of parts and manufacturing one standardized version of the vehicle inherently improves reliability," McKenna said.
This was the third DIRECTV satellite launched on a Proton vehicle. DIRECTV 8 was launched on May 22, 2005, and DIRECTV 5 was carried to orbit May 7, 2002.
ILS has exclusive rights to market the Proton vehicle worldwide to commercial satellite operators. As of the first half of this year, the company brought in more than $1 billion in new business and has a backlog of 20 missions