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EchoStar's Broadband Bird Blasts Off

On July 5, the rocket's red glare in French Guiana signaled the successful liftoff of the EchoStar XVII satellite, which Hughes Network Systems expects to put into commercial service for high-speed satellite broadband this fall.

The Ka-band satellite, built by Space Systems/Loral, is designed to provide more than 100 Gigabits per second of capacity to HughesNet's Internet customers. After testing is completed over the summer, EchoStar's Hughes subsidiary expects to begin commercial operations of the satellite this fall, offering customers downstream Internet connections of more than 10 Megabits per second.

EchoStar XVII was successfully launched and placed into geostationary transfer orbit by Arianespace's Ariane 5 rocket, which lifted off July 5 at 5:36 p.m. Eastern time from Europe's Spaceport in Kourou, French Guiana. Space Systems/Loral's Mission Control Center in Palo Alto, Calif., reported spacecraft acquisition at 6:20 p.m. Eastern when signals were received at the ground station in Hassan, Karnataka, in India.

"The addition of EchoStar XVII to our existing satellite capacity, ground network, and services takes satellite Internet to the next dimension," Hughes president Pradman Kaul said in a statement. "Our HughesNet Gen4 customers will be able to enjoy a media-rich world like never before. We congratulate the Arianespace and Space Systems/Loral teams on a flawless launch."

The EchoStar XVII will be maneuvered into a circular orbit 22,300 miles above the equator at 107.1 degrees West longitude.

HughesNet currently has 1.5 million consumer and small business customers. In May, DirecTV announced a deal with Hughes to resell Gen4 broadband service, as well as broadband satellite service from ViaSat.

Arianespace, backed by 21 shareholders and the European Space Agency, hosts a video recap and highlights of the launch at In addition to EchoStar XVII, the Ariane 5 rocket also carried the MSG-3 weather satellite.