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SES’ AMC-18 Satellite Set for Friday Launch

The AMC-18 communications satellite, to be operated by SES Americom, is set to launch Friday from French Guiana -- on the northern coast of South America -- sometime between 5:08-5:51 p.m. (EST).

The satellite, designed and built by Lockheed Martin Commercial Space Systems, carries 24 36-megahertz C-band transponders. Depending on content characteristics, each transponder can carry roughly between three and 10 video channels, SES Americom spokeswoman Monica Morgan said.

AMC-18 will allow SES Americom to expand its ability to distribute HD channels -- all of the space on the company's AMC-10 and AMC-11 satellites is sold out.

Morgan said there are "several contracts pending" for space on AMC-18, but she wouldn't name the firms.

AMC-18 will be located at orbital location 105 degrees west longitude and provide cable programming and broadcast services to the United States, Mexico and the Caribbean.

SES Americom expects to assume control of AMC-18 Dec. 19. After completing in-orbit testing, the satellite will go into service in early January, Morgan said.

SES Americom’s triple-feed antenna program provides cable operators one antenna that provides access to programming via the AMC-1, AMC-4 and, now, AMC-18 satellites. The company estimated that the triple-feed program covers one-half of all U.S. cable households.

SES Americom is flying several customer VIPs to French Guiana to witness the launch, including executives from Comcast, Cox Communications, EchoStar Communications, Clear Channel Communications and Turner Broadcasting System, according to Morgan, but she wouldn’t provide the names of those attending.

AMC-18 is expected to provide more than 15 years of useful life. It will be launched by an Ariane 5 rocket provided by Arianespace, a French commercial-space-transportation company.

SES Americom, a subsidiary of SES Global, launched its first satellite 30 years ago and currently operates 18 satellites.