From its equatorial launch site at 154 degrees West Longitude, a Zenit-3SL launch vehicle lifted the DIRECTV 7S satellite to geosynchronous transfer orbit (GTO), on its way to a final orbital position at 119 degrees West Longitude. DIRECTV 7S, the second spot beam satellite in the DIRECTV fleet, will use highly focused spot beam technology to provide DIRECTV with the capacity to deliver more than 400 additional local channels to more than 60 local channel markets, including 41 new local channel markets.
Built by Space Systems/Loral (SS/L), the 5,483 kg (12,063 lb.) satellite is also capable of operating from 101 degrees West Longitude, the primary orbital slot for DIRECTV. In one operating mode, the new satellite will be capable of providing up to 54 transponders for high-quality local and national digital video service broadcast into 27 beams. In its other configuration, the satellite will be capable of providing up to 44 transponders broadcast into 30 beams.
DIRECTV is the nation's leading digital multichannel television service provider with more than 12.2 million customers. Loral's 1300 series spacecraft is one of several high capacity direct-to-home (DTH) broadcast satellites SS/L has built for DIRECTV. This is Sea Launch's second mission for DIRECTV and our third for Loral. Our first DIRECTV launch was on October 9, 1999, when we successfully placed DIRECTV 1R into orbit. Our most recent launch for Loral was Telstar 14/Estrela do Sul 1 on January 10, 2004.
Sea Launch signed an agreement with Arianespace in November 2003 to launch the DIRECTV 7S satellite through a cooperative arrangement with Boeing Launch Services, under the launch services alliance. The creation of the alliance in July 2003 allowed Arianespace to negotiate a seamless transfer of the satellite to Sea Launch, and for DIRECTV to secure a guaranteed launch slot for this important mission. The alliance utilizes launch systems from three leading service providers - Arianespace, Boeing Launch Services and Mitsubishi Heavy Industries - to provide customers with on-time launches and total mission assurance.