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Dish Network’s Launch Luck Turns for the Better

The EchoStar XI satellite was successfully launched into orbit by Sea Launch’s oceangoing platform Tuesday night, meaning that direct-broadcast satellite service Dish Network will get some fresh capacity for additional HD channels.

A Zenit-3SL rocket lifted off at 10:21 p.m. (PST) July 15 from the Odyssey Launch Platform, positioned at 154 degrees west longitude, and one hour later, the EchoStar XI satellite was placed into geosynchronous transfer orbit on its way to a final orbital position at 110 degrees west longitude.

Operators at the Gnangara ground station in Perth, Australia, successfully acquired the spacecraft’s first signals from orbit shortly after spacecraft separation.

Executives at Dish -- which gets its satellite capacity from satellite operator and set-top maker EchoStar -- are likely breathing a sigh of relief. That’s because Dish suffered a major blow to its HD ramp-up in March when AMC-14, an SES Americom satellite that was under contract to Dish, failed to reach its planned orbit after a ground-based launch from Kazakhstan.

Built by Space Systems/Loral, the EchoStar XI spacecraft is designed for an orbital service life of 15 years, with 20 kilowatts of power to support the expansion of Dish Network’s capacity and capabilities to customers throughout the United States. It is expected to be used to boost Dish’s carriage of local HD broadcast stations.

“For the third mission in a row, Sea Launch has successfully launched a satellite for Dish Network, and we are thrilled to add our 11th high-power satellite to our fleet,” said Rohan Zaveri, vice president of Space Programs for Dish, in a statement. “We look forward to beginning testing and ultimately enhancing our already-extensive, high-quality programming lineup.”