New York -- EchoStar Communications Corp. is expected to
receive an official launch date sometime this week for its fourth direct-broadcast
satellite. According to chairman and CEO Charlie Ergen, EchoStar IV should launch within
the next four weeks.
Speaking at the SkyForum conference here, Ergen said he was
hopeful that this launch will be as successful as the previous three. He told reporters
that he plans to invite all 30 members of EchoStar's "good-luck club" out
to the launch in Kazakhstan. Each of the club members have been to all of the earlier
launches, and Ergen is not willing to chance leaving any of the good-luck charms behind.
EchoStar IV will be launched to the 119 degrees west
orbital slot, from which the company's core Dish Network service is delivered. The
new satellite will replace EchoStar I, which is to be repositioned to a slot at 148
degrees west to service the Western half of the country.
Because it's a higher-power satellite, the new bird at
119 will allow EchoStar to add more channels to its core Dish Network lineup. The new
satellite is expected to be operational by August. EchoStar IV was designed to make more
efficient use of the 21 transponders that the company is licensed to use at 119.
The new, higher-power satellite will also allow Dish
Network to target customers in Alaska and Hawaii for the first time. Subscribers there
would need a larger-than-normal dish of 24 to 30 inches in diameter, depending on the
location and its typical amount of rain, Ergen said.