EchoStar XI Launch Update

Set for tonight at 10:21pm PST via Sea Launch:

Long Beach, Calif., July 14, 2008 – The Sea Launch team arrived at the launch site in the Equatorial Pacific over the weekend and initiated a 72-hour countdown, in preparation for the launch of the EchoStar XI satellite on Tuesday, July 15. Liftoff is planned at 10:21pm PDT, July 15 (5:21 GMT, July 16), at the opening of a two-hour launch window.

Upon arrival at the launch site, at 154 degrees West Longitude, the team ballasted the Odyssey Launch Platform to launch depth. A final series of tests on all systems is now underway. Prior to fueling operations, the platform will be evacuated, with all personnel safely positioned on the ship, about four miles from the platform. One hour after liftoff, a Zenit-3SL vehicle will insert the 5,511 kg (12,150 lb) EchoStar XI satellite into geosynchronous transfer orbit, on its way to a final orbital location of 110 degrees West Longitude.

Built by Space Systems/Loral (SS/L), the powerful 20-kW spacecraft, carries a Ku-band payload that will support DISH Network’s direct broadcast television service for its customers throughout the United States. This spacecraft is designed for a 15-year service life on orbit. This is the 3rd mission Sea Launch is executing for DISH Network and the 8th mission with a spacecraft built by SS/L.

Check out a live still webcam from the platform here and here. If you’re going to stay up late, you can watch live coverage of the launch here. And Sea Launch has extensive coverage of the mission and satellite here.

With DISH Network promising 130 HD channels by the end of 2008, this satellite launch is, like all of them, very important. And this launch couldn’t be mre timely, as DISH just surpassed 100 channels just a few days ago. And this means that DISH may have just surpassed DirecTV.