Cablevision direct broadcast satellite launched

Cablevision Systems, the New York City cable giant, launched its first direct broadcast satellite last week. The launch aboard an Atlas 5 rocket was initially successful.

Cablevision plans to use the satellite, built by Lockheed Martin, to offer direct broadcast programming on a national basis beginning Oct. 1. If all goes as scheduled, the service will compete with DirecTV and Echostar’s DISH Network.

The satellite, Rainbow-1, was placed in a geosynchronous transfer orbit by the 20-story-tall rocket after a launch last Thursday evening from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station's complex 41 in central Florida. The satellite was separated from the rocket and placed into orbit 100 minutes after blastoff.

“This is a lot more fun than putting up wires on television poles,” Charles Dolan, Cablevision chairman, said after his company’s satellite was confirmed to be in its proper orbit of 2,353 by 22,256 statute miles.

“It's a pretty incredible day for us,” said Wilt Hildenbrand, Cablevision’s executive vice president for engineering and technology. He estimated the total cost of the Rainbow-1 satellite delivery mission was between $200 and $250 million.

Up to 468 channels of television could be made available to subscribers using 18-inch-diameter antennas, Cablevision officials said, although the number of channels could be smaller depending on how much high-bandwidth digital programming is offered. The satellite has a life expectancy of 18 years.

Liftoff was delayed 25 minutes while the Lockheed Martin launch team solved a pair of technical problems involving a helium leak and a balky liquid oxygen valve. They also had to wait for clouds to clear. All the concerns were quickly taken care of and the blastoff took place without incident.

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