Rocket Launch to usher in better, faster satellite Internet service

I have been patiently waiting over a year for the launch of the second satellite providing coverage of the rest of  the country for my new satellite internet system. I got this system in the fall of 2015, and got it working and mobile shortly afterward. It's everything I have always wanted in a satellite system – fast, reliable, easy to set up, and cheap.  All the problems I have had with my one Ku band internet have disappeared. There was just one hitch – I was an early adopter of a system still under construction.

Echostar 17 coverage in orange, blue is the area that Echostar 19 will cover. I stayed in the orange area all this past year.

This Hughesnet Ka band system uses spotbeams instead of one big weak signal sprayed out over the whole continent like my old system. The existing satellite, Echostar 17, covered the eastern half of the country, the western coastal  strip, and a few inland cities out west.  The remainder of the west awaited the arrival of the next satellite, Echostar 19. So our travels this year were dictated by where we could get coverage, which petered out west of Dallas and picked back up as we got out to the coast in California. As long as we stayed on the coast, it was fine, even up to Vancouver Island. But once we headed east again, it quit working in Idaho and didn't resume until we were in eastern Minnesota.  So there were big stretches of the country we just had to travel rapidly through, because the only internet we had was the data card with its small monthly allotment.

Originally scheduled to be launched on an Ariane 5 rocket like its predecessor, Echostar 19 went up on an Atlas 5 instead to keep with the early 2017 operational date, since Ariane launch slots that meshed with the satellite construction schedule were difficult to come by. This is an advanced version of the same Atlas rocket that launched John Glenn into orbit in 1962, with added solid rocket boosters to provide the lift necessary to get this 14,000 pound monster into orbit.  These Echostar satellites are HUGE, 8 meters long and with solar arrays extending out to give a deployed size of 85 feet. It all folds up to fit within the 4 meter diameter fairing at the top of the rocket.

As the launch date approached, I was determined to see it with my own eyes, so we drove down Sunday and were on the beach at Port Canaveral, along with several hundred other people, as the countdown continued. There was some glitch in the countdown, but it went up after a 45 minute delay, and was quite a sight as the plume of smoke from the solid rocket boosters arced out over the Atlantic and the rumble of the main engine shook the air. As the solid rocket boosters fell away and it climbed up out of sight, I was relieved. Something you wait this long for is nice to see in person.

Editor's Note: Built for satellite operator Hughes, EchoStar 19 is being touted as the company's most powerful internet communications satellite to date. When fully commissioned in the spring of 2017, it will provide high speed Internet access to rural households in fixed locations generally west of the Mississippi and in Michigan's Upper Peninsula. How and when it will be useable for RVers who move from place to place has yet to be officially determined, though such application is widely expected as pricing and other operational details become available.




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