Land Launch Vehicle Places Measat-3a into Orbit

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PARIS — The Measat-3a telecommunications satellite was successfully placed into geostationary transfer orbit June 22 by a version of the Russian-Ukrainian Zenit-3SL rocket operated from Russia’s Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan, Measat and launch-services operator Sea Launch Co. said.

Measat-3a, built by Orbital Sciences Corp. of Dulles, Va., will be operated at 91.5 degrees east alongside the Measat-3 satellite, which has been in orbit since 2006. Carrying 12 Ku- and 12 C-band transponders and weighing 2,366 kilograms at launch, Measat-3a will provide Measat a 50 percent increase in capacity from that orbital slot.

Measat said it expects the satellite to complete in-orbit testing by late July, after which it will enter commercial service.

Measat-3a’s launch came 10 months after a satellite-handling incident at the Baikonur site as the satellite was being prepared for launch. The resulting damage forced Measat-3a’s owners to de-fuel the satellite and return it to Orbital Sciences for repairs.

The launch is the third to be conducted by Land Launch, which Long Beach, Calif.-based Sea Launch Co. hopes to develop as a second commercial offering. Sea Launch launches satellites from a floating platform stationed in the Pacific Ocean on the equator; Land Launch uses the same basic vehicle but handles smaller payloads due to its northern operating location, from which it is more difficult to reach geostationary transfer orbit.

The Measat-3a launch success removes a problem from the books of satellite fleet operator Intelsat of Washington and Bermuda, which was officially the Land Launch customer. Intelsat had purchased several Land Launch contracts before selling them to other operators, including Measat. Intelsat has said it will no longer be in the business of buying bulk launches for future resale.

Measat said Measat-3a cost $69.9 million to build, and $44.2 million to launch. Intelsat subsequently agreed to pay Sea Launch a small supplemental fee to assure the launch occurred on schedule. Measat paid $27.75 million for a $185 million insurance policy for Measat-3a covering the satellite’s launch and first year in orbit.