RSCC To Use DirecTV-1R for On-orbit Backup Purposes

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PARIS — The Russian Satellite Communications Co. (RSCC) will be taking control of the DirecTV-1R direct-broadcast television satellite in January and operating it in a Russian orbital slot following an agreement with the satellite’s owner, DirecTV of El Segundo, Calif., according to Russian and U.S. industry officials.

DirecTV-1R, which was launched in 1999, will be gradually moved from its current slot at 101 degrees west longitude to the RSCC slot at 56.16 degrees east, where it is expected to arrive Dec. 21, Moscow-based RSCC said Oct. 19 in a response to Space News inquiries.

Beginning in January, DirecTV-1R will be operated in an inclined orbit — meaning it is not fully stabilized on its north-south axis — to provide television broadcasts to Russian customers.

DirecTV-1R will be used by RSCC for about a year to back up the television programming now carried by the Bonum-1 satellite, which was launched in 1998 with an expected 11.5-year life. While still operational, Bonum-1 is nearing the end of its life and, to save fuel, has been placed into an increasingly inclined orbit that threatens broadcast quality.

RSCC needs a replacement satellite because of delays in the arrival of its Express-AT1 spacecraft, which RSCC said is now not expected to arrive on station until late 2013. DirecTV had been planning to place DirecTV-1R into retirement before the request from RSCC arrived, DirecTV said in a document filed with the U.S. Federal Communications Commission.

Once Express-AT1 has been declared operational, it will assume the traffic carried on DirecTV-1 and Bonum-1, and both of the latter satellites will be retired to graveyard orbits above the geostationary arc.