Europe's Ariane rocket lofts US TV satellite sucessfully

European space rocket Ariane 44LP successfully placed a large satellite in orbit for DirecTV, the biggest US subscription TV channel early this morning. 

The Ariane 44LP workhorse version having two liquid and two solid strap-on boosters was launched from the European Space Agency's launch pad at Kourou, French Guiana, on schedule at 9:35 pm and DirecTV-4S satellite separated from the launcher about 21 min later as per a press release from Arianespace. 

DirecTV-4S will be placed in geostationary orbit west of the Galapagos Islands, providing a digital footprint across the entire United States of America. DirecTV is the largest satellite television provider in the United States serving 10 million subscribers. The satellite will be used by California-based DirecTV to provide digital television service with more than 300 channels of additional capacity to deliver additional local channels.

Direct Tv-4S, a 4.3-tonne payload is the third satellite launched by Ariane for DirecTV. Among the earlier five satellites under DirectTV's umbrella , DirecTV-1 was launched in December 1993 and DirecTV-3 followed in June 1995 through Arianespace. 

EchoStar Communications, DirecTV's nearest rival, won a bidding war for the company last month against US-Australian media magnate Rupert Murdoch with the deal being subject to clearing several regulatory hurdles.

Arianespace chairman and CEO Jean-Marie Luton noted that tonight's flight was with the 200th spacecraft built by Boeing Satellite Systems. 

Luton also added that DIRECTV-4S set a record for pre-launch processing as the satellite was launched just two and a half weeks after its arrival in French Guiana, to make this the shortest satellite campaign in the history of Ariane, and to satisfy the requirements of customer Direct TV-4S. 

The DIRECTV-4S platform will be the first spacecraft in the DIRECTV fleet to use highly focused spot beam technology, allowing the company to expand its local channel offerings in metropolitan markets.

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