October 31, 2008

Russia Readies Telstar Satellite Launch

Russian space technicians are preparing to launch a Ukrainian-built rocket containing a U.S. Telstar telecom satellite, Russia's space agency said Friday.

The Zenit-3SLB carrier rocket is scheduled to lift off from the Baikonur Cosmodrome space center in the desert steppes of Kazakhstan, about 125 miles east of the Aral Sea, at the end of December, space officials said.

"A preliminary assessment of the launch facilities at Baikonur was carried out this week in preparation for the launch of the Telstar 11N satellite," the agency said in a statement.

The satellite, built by Space Systems/Loral of Palo Alto, Calif., for Telesat Canada's Loral Skynet telecom subsidiary, will provide services from 39 high-power Ku-band transponders spread across four different geographic beams in each of North and Central America, Europe, Africa and the maritime Atlantic Ocean region, the Russian Information Agency Novosti reported.

Ku band is primarily used for satellite communications, most notably NASA's Tracking Data Relay Satellite used for both space shuttles.