Rainbow 1, the centerpiece of Cablevision Systems Corp.'s ambitious but relatively secret digital satellite plans, launched from Cape Canaveral, Fla. in mid-July.
The bird, sent into orbit aboard an Atlas V rocket, will offer digital video services virtually nationwide and compete with EchoStar and DirecTV from 61.5 degrees west longitude. Cablevision reportedly plans to launch the service commercially on Oct. 1. Speculation has also been rampant that Cablevision could end up selling its DBS assets and capacity to DirecTV or EchoStar.
Cablevision Chairman Charles Dolan referred to Rainbow 1 as the "world's most powerful and technologically advanced spot beam satellite." Rainbow 1 reportedly has the capacity to offer 468 channels of standard definition.
The guts of the high-power spot-beam bird include 24 MHz Ku-band transponders, combined with 135-watt and 65-watt amplifiers. Lockheed Martin, maker of the satellite, predicts a service life of 18 years.