October 19, 2011

ViaSat-1 launch trip: Day 1

Greetings from Moscow!

This is a very important week in JetBlue’s product history for both Customers and Crewmembers. As you likely already know, we’ll be launching “our” satellite, called ViaSat-1, with Business Partner ViaSat! Five lucky Crewmembers will be there for the occasion in addition to a large team of Business Partners who have joined together to make this possible.

From JetBlue, we have Rachel McCarthy (Director Product Development), Collin Wolfe (Manager FP&A), Robyn Larson (Manager Contracts & Negotiations), Daymien Villasenor (Director Corporate Counsel), and your blogger, Don Uselmann (Manager Product Development). All of us have worked together on the ViaSat project and have decided to chronicle our journey this week on BlueTales.

In case you need to be brought up to speed…

The satellite will blast off from Baikonur, Kazakhstan (yes, of Borat fame) in the early morning hours of Thursday, October 20th local time. That’s mid-day on Wednesday, October 19th for those of you back in the United States. However, our itinerary called for us to visit Moscow, Russia to meet up with the rest of the launch team.

If you’re wondering why we’re first going to Moscow, it’s because the Baikonur Cosmodrome – the space launch facility – is run by the Russian Federal Space Agency on land leased to Russia from the Kazakh government. Charters from Moscow are a common form of transportation to and from Baikonur. We’ll spend two nights in Moscow, then head to Baikonur on Wednesday, and return to Moscow on Thursday before heading home.

Mission overview

After a brief nap and taking advantage of the hotel’s express dry cleaning service (so yes, my clothes were clean!), we had a wonderful dinner at the Russian Bolshoi Restaurant in downtown Moscow.

The dinner was hosted by International Launch Services, also known as ILS. ILS is a joint venture between the United States and Russia and is responsible for the satellite’s launch vehicle, called the Proton, which will propel ViaSat-1 into space. The Proton has been used in more than 360 launches – currently about twelve per year – and has a 95% success rate.

Before dinner, each launch participant was given a copy of the mission overview. Of particular interest is the track that the satellite will take as it circles the globe with tremendous speed. A number maneuvers are planned to ensure the satellite finds its appropriate location. During this time, ViaSat-1 will still be attached to the Proton. The two will separate approximately 9 hours, 12 minutes after liftoff.

What’s next?

An important step was realized when the State Commission approved the rollout to the launch pad. Formal approval will be necessary to fuel the rocket and launch ViaSat-1, but we expect this to occur without concern in a subsequent State Commission meeting about six hours prior to launch.

While the five of us have yet to see ViaSat-1 in person, our contacts in Baikonur have sent us the following photo of the satellite on the launch pad. They tell us that the electrical connections have been verified and the links between the satellite, the mobile service tower, and the control room have been successfully tested. The spacecraft is in excellent health and its batteries are now being charged.

Talk about a great report card just hours before the launch!

Until next time…

Signing off for today is launch team, pictured below from Sparrow Hills. Pictured left to right: Don Uselmann, Robyn Larson, Rachel McCarthy, and Collin Wolfe. Not pictured: Daymien Villasenor.

Thanks for reading and feel free to send us an email at product@jetblue.com with any questions or comments!

Don Uselmann

Manager Product Development

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