Spaceway F1 is the first of two Ka-band satellites that will launch this year, enabling DIRECTV to broadcast local HD channels into several of the nation’s largest markets. Initially, DIRECTV will begin launching digital and HD local channels in 12 markets this fall allowing customers — with the necessary HD reception equipment — in those markets to receive popular broadcast network programming in HD.
The Boeing 702 model satellite lifted off from the ocean-based Odyssey Launch Platform aboard a Sea Launch Zenit-3SL rocket at 12:31:30 a.m. PDT from the equatorial launch site at 154 degrees West longitude.
The launch of Spaceway F1, and Spaceway F2 in June, marks the beginning of a historic expansion of DIRECTV’s capacity that will include the launch of two more next-generation satellites, DIRECTV 10 and DIRECTV 11, in 2007. The four satellites will provide additional capacity to deliver more than 1,500 local HD and more than 150 national HD channels and other advanced programming services to consumers.
The first group of markets to receive local HD channels via Spaceway F1 includes New York, Los Angeles, Chicago, Philadelphia, Boston, San Francisco, Dallas, Washington D.C., Atlanta, Detroit, Houston and Tampa. These markets represent nearly 36 million homes or 32.8 percent of all U.S. TV households.
Thirty minutes after liftoff, the rocket left the spacecraft in a geosynchronous transfer orbit with a high point of 21,200 miles (34,128 km) above the equator. Controllers at a ground station in South Africa have made contact with the satellite and confirmed that all systems are functioning properly.
In the coming weeks, controllers will maneuver the spacecraft into a circular orbit; deploy the antennas and solar arrays; and test operational functions, communications payload and the propulsion system. DIRECTV expects to begin offering services from Spaceway F1 from the 102.8 degree West longitude orbital slot in the fall.
Spaceway F1 is the third DIRECTV satellite to be launched on a Zenit-3SL launch vehicle. Sea Launch successfully delivered DIRECTV 1R to orbit in October, 1999, and DIRECTV 7S in May, 2004.