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The first of several new satellites to substantially expand the high-definition channel offering by direct-to-home television broadcaster DIRECTV successfully rocketed into Earth orbit this morning.
The commercial Sea Launch Zenit 3SL booster put the Spaceway 1 satellite into geosynchronous transfer orbit following a 30-minute flight that began at 0731 GMT (3:31 a.m. EDT) from a converted oil-drilling platform floating in equatorial waters of the Pacific about 1,400 miles south of Hawaii.
The two Ukrainian-made lower stages of the rocket performed their firings to propel the Russian Block DM-SL upper stage and Spaceway 1 satellite out of the atmosphere during the initial 9 minutes of flight. The upper stage then took over, completing one engine burn to reach the intended orbit.
While flying above the eastern coast of Brazil, explosive bolts holding the 13,376-pound satellite to the spent rocket motor were detonated, allowing small springs to release Spaceway 1. By design, tip-off rates were imparted on the satellite to create a gentle tumble as it moved away at one-foot-per-second.