EchoStar Communications has targeted May as the launch window for EchoStar IX, a satellite equipped with commercial Ka-band spot-beam capabilities.
EchoStar said the bird will be a "critical" component of the company's plans to offer new Ka-band services, including broadband data. Operating at 121 degrees West Longitude, the new satellite will also include 32 Ku-band transponders that will boost its coverage in the continental U.S. and offer additional services in Alaska and Hawaii.
The launch could fill a big hole in EchoStar's broadband satellite plans. Last year, EchoStar wrote off its $50 million investment in Ka-band start-up WildBlue Communications and has all but severed links with troubled Ku-band service Starband.