The past few months have been tough for International Launch Services (ILS) and its Russian –built Proton rocket. A launch failure, plus numerous delays and the CEO’s departure have not helped the system’s reputation. Last night that gloom was lifted when a Proton rocket successfully orbited Mexico’s Satmex 8 craft in a flawless launch.
The ILS Proton with a Breeze M upper stage launched from Pad 39 at the Baikonur Cosmodrome at 19:07 GMT and 15:07 EDT on March 26. Utilizing a standard 5-burn Geostationary Transfer Orbit (GTO) mission design, the Breeze M successfully released the Satmex 8 satellite into orbit 9 hours and 13 minutes after launch. The satellite weighed nearly 5.5 metric tons at liftoff and was the 25th Space Systems/Loral (SSL) satellite launched on an ILS Proton rocket. This was also the first Satmex satellite launched by ILS and the first ILS Proton launch of the year.
Satmex 8 will replace Satmex 5 and will provide enhanced performance and capacity in North, Central and South America at 116.8 west longitude. This new high-power, fixed service satellite has 24 C- and 40 Ku-band transponders, and will improve the current continental and regional services for video contribution and distribution, broadband, cellular backhaul and distance learning.
Satmex 8 adds 45 per cent of total capacity over Satmex 5 which translates to 94 per cent of increased capacity on Ku band to fulfill the growing demand for satellite services in the Americas.
“The first ILS launch this year” hasn’t helped. The industry is anxiously waiting for the Proton system to get back to normal, and a launch rate of better than one a month.
Next in a long line of satellites awaiting lift-off is Telesat of Canada’s giant Anik G1 craft, slated for April, a satellite for Eutelsat (3D) in May, pay-radio operator XM-Sirius with Sirius FM6 due later in May and SES-6 anticipated in June.