Dish HD Satellite Launch Fails

Friday, March 14, this seemingly innocuous announcement was posted on the Web site of International Launch Services:

“Dateline: Baikonur Cosmodrome, Kazakhstan

“Khrunichev and International Launch Services regret to announce an anomaly during today’s Proton mission with the AMC-14 satellite.”

It turns out that “anomaly” was a satellite that failed to reach its planned orbit, and that was bad news for EchoStar’s Dish satellite service. A Proton Breeze M rocket carrying the satellite for SES Americom and its customer, EchoStar, failed to operate properly on its second burn, according to preliminary data. A Russian State Commission is investigating.

Meanwhile, the total loss of satellite will adversely affect Dish Network’s plans to greatly expand its HD channels to more directly compete with its lone DBS competitor, DirecTV. Both DBS firms have placed a lot of their HD eggs into their respective baskets in the past couple of years as another way to compete with cable, as well as with each other.

Given how much lead time is typically necessary to build new satellites and commission future launches, last week’s “anomaly” could affect Dish’s HD plans for many months, if not years.