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05.23.2004
Originally featured on BroadcastEngineering.com
HDTV satellite launched from Cape Canaveral

A Lockheed Martin Atlas 2AS rocket blasted from Florida’s Cape Canaveral last week carrying a 2.5 ton high-definition television satellite designed to expand HD programming options on American cable television systems.

Lockheed reported a successful lift-off from pad 36B at the Cape Canaveral Air Force Station followed 28 minutes later by the separation and deployment of the Lockheed-built AMC-11 satellite above central Africa.

When it begins service later this year, the satellite will become the second in SES AMERICOM’s premier cable neighborhood, H-D Prime, providing digital transmission across the United States.

Viacom and NBC Universal will be among the largest users of the satellite as they prepare to offer high-definition versions of many standard cable networks, said Bryan McGuirk, senior vice president of domestic satellite service for SES AMERICOM.

Dozens of television networks — such as the Discovery channels, Lifetime Television, The Movie Channel, MTV, Nickelodeon, The Science Channel, Showtime, The Learning Channel, TV Land, VH-1 and The Weather Channel — will be transmitted to the satellite for relay to cable companies around the U.S. that feed the programming to 80 million homes.

AMC-11 was released from the rocket in a temporary orbit with a high point of 22,325 statute miles, low point of 116 miles and inclination of 12.4 degrees to the equator. In the coming days, the satellite will use its engine to circularize the orbit to 22,300 miles and lower the inclination to the equator.

Controllers, reported Spaceflight Now, will maneuver the satellite to 146 degrees west longitude along the equator for testing. Then AMC-11 will wait until after the seasonal eclipse period before drifting to its operational position at 131 degrees west.

“Post eclipse in October, we will start a drift and we will be on-station at 131 in early November, ready to do the traffic transition,” said Dany Harel, SES AMERICOM vice president of space systems and operations. That traffic transition is the swap of broadcasters from the aging Satcom satellite to the new AMC-11.

AMC-11 and its twin, the AMC-10 launched in February to replace Satcom C-4, provide nearly 20 percent more power than the Satcoms they are replacing. The AMC pair was built using the A2100 satellite model design and each carry 24 C-band transponders.

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