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Satellite Launcher Explodes

Feb 1, 2007  •  Post A Comment

An ocean-based satellite-launching rocket system exploded on its platform Tuesday and could delay plans by DirecTV and Echostar to expand their HD services.
The Sea Launch Zenith 35L rocket dramatically blew up in a bright orange fireball during its launch preparations on its Pacific Ocean platform. The platform and rocket are unmanned and controlled by a command ship several miles away.
DirecTV and Echostar were not scheduled to use the satellite that was destroyed, but both companies have plans to use the Sea Launch system this year to expand their available bandwidth. DirecTV said its HD expansion plans will continue on schedule. Echostar declined to comment.
The explosion destroyed a communications satellite and the satellite carrier and caused unspecified damage to the platform. Perhaps most damaging is the impact the disaster could have on the perception of Sea Launch in the marketplace. Companies may be wary of entrusting their satellites to Sea Launch until they are reassured that the system is safe and reliable.
DirecTV has ambitious plans to launch 100 HD channels by the end of the year. Its plans have spurred several top cable networks such as USA Network, CNN and TBS to commit to launching HD simulcasts by the end of the year as well. But all that hinges on DirecTV’s ability to expand its bandwidth with new satellites.
DirecTV said the first of its planned satellite launches-a ground-based launch-will be sufficient to carry out its HD expansion plans for this year. The second satellite, which was supposed to be through Sea Launch, will likely be delayed.
Rival Echostar is also scheduled to launch a satellite on the Odyssey platform, according to a Sea Launch press release from last year.
This article is part of TVWeek.com’s High Definition newsletter, a weekly source of breaking HD news, articles and interviews written by Senior Reporter James Hibberd.

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