Satellite Launch Keeps DirecTV on Pace for HD Expansion

A new satellite designed to transmit new high-definition channels for DirecTV successfully launched Friday night, keeping the DBS operator on-track to broadcast 100 HD channels by year-end.

The DirecTV 10 satellite, a Boeing-built 702 model, was launched from the well-established Baikonur Cosmodrome facility in Kazakhstan. It is the third DirecTV satellite to launch from that facility aboard an International Launch Services (ILS) Russian-built Proton rocket. Ground-station personnel have made contact with the satellite and confirmed that all systems are functioning properly, and the satellite is expected to begin operations in early September.

The new satellite has spot beam capacity that will enable DirecTV to expand its carriage of local HD broadcast channels to up to 75 markets this year, says the company. DirecTV 10 will also be used to help roll out new national HD channels from programmers such as HBO  , Disney, Discovery Communications, A&E Television Networks, Fox, Turner, NBC Universal, Showtime Networks, Starz and Scripps Networks, though DirecTV hasn't detailed the exact timing for when particular HD networks will be launched.

The DirecTV 10 launch is surely a relief for DirecTV, which delayed plans to launch another satellite, DirecTV 11, this month after the oceangoing Sea Launch platform it had chosen suffered a launch failure with an SES satellite  last January. According to a DirecTV spokesman, Sea Launch has now been cleared for operation and DirecTV 11 will be launched on that platform early next year. DirecTV says the two new satellites will eventually allow it to deliver more than 1,500 local HD channels and 150 national HD channels.