October 19, 2011

ViaSat-1 launch trip: From the Kremlin to Kazakhstan

After an exciting first day in Moscow, and being reassured that all was well with the ViaSat-1 satellite at the Baikonur Cosmodrome, your fellow JetBlue Crewmembers who are attending the launch took advantage of a restful night of sleep. This proved itself necessary for the jam-packed day of tourism that lay ahead, followed by an early departure to Kazakhstan the next morning.

Dreams of a successful launch

After our busy day exploring the city, it was time to prepare ourselves for the journey to Kazakhstan. Before turning in for the evening, each of us opened our mission guides and immersed ourselves further into the “satellite launching 101” crash course (no pun intended, of course).

Just in case “recent satellite launches” is a category at your favorite watering hole’s trivia night in the near future, here are some interesting facts that may come in handy:

  • This is the 369th Proton launch, the first being in 1965 (if you recall from our earlier blog post, the Proton is the launch vehicle that will propel the ViaSat-1 satellite into space)
  • The height of the Proton rocket is 58.2 meters
  • 705,000 kilograms of fuel are required for the launch
  • The mass of the ViaSat-1 satellite is 6,740 kilograms

We also learned that the Baikonur Cosmodrome has a history as interesting as what we experienced during the day in Moscow. As you may have read, the Cosmodrome is one of two major space launch complexes owned by Russia. Human space missions as well as scientific flights to the moon and other planets are part of the Baikonur Cosmodrome’s operations. In fact, Yuri Gagarin, the first human into space, blasted off from Baikonur on April 12th, 1961. This was just four years after the first launch of a satellite in October of 1957.

While Baikonur may not be a household name in the United States, it is well known to Russians – just as Cape Canaveral is to Americans. The city is located east of the Aral Sea, about 2,100 kilometers from Moscow, with flying time of just over three hours. Russia actually leases this part of the land in Kazakhstan and the lease is valid for another 40 years. We were informed by our hosts that only a handful of Russians have the fortune of visiting Baikonur. We’re part of a special group and feel very fortunate to see this part of “Russia”!

Our journey would begin at 6:00 AM local time the following morning, so we all did our best to calm some of the excitement to get some rest before our early departure.

The latest report from the Cosmodrome

We’re just hours away from arriving at the launch site and our Business Partner reports that we are not seeing any issues with neither the ViaSat-1 satellite nor the Proton launch vehicle. Both are pictured below at launch pad 39, enveloped by the mobile service tower.

Earlier in the day, the State Commission approved the fueling for the launch. We’re currently about five hours from launch and fueling of the Proton has commenced. The team has also started topping off the spacecraft battery charge. Winds – both on the ground and at altitude – are within allowable parameters.

As the big event quickly approaches, we’re equally excited and nervous. There have been so many contributors from JetBlue, LiveTV, ViaSat, and other Business Partners who have worked so hard to make this day possible, and this project has been years in the making for ViaSat. The successful launch is such an important milestone, symbolic of more than just onboard internet access. It will solidify our position as the forward-thinking airline that isn’t afraid to take risks, always with the Customer in mind, and with the end goal to bring humanity back to air travel.

Time to launch the satellite!

We must sign off for now, but we’ll be sure to share our experience of the launch with you. Until then, goodbye from your JetBlue team, pictured below in Red Square with the famous St. Basil’s cathedral in the background. (Left to right: Robyn Larson, Rachel McCarthy, Don Uselmann, Collin Wolfe, and Daymien Villasenor).

Thanks and don’t forget to email any questions or comments to product@jetblue.com!

Don Uselmann

Manager Product Development

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3 Comments on “ViaSat-1 launch trip: From the Kremlin to Kazakhstan”

  • Posted by CParker on October 19, 2011 at 11:38 pm

    We’ve been touting this satellite as ours, however the press release states Continental will be using this as well for their inflight WiFi. Are they financial partners on the satellite or are they going to be using the service the same way they have used LiveTV for their IFE.

  • Posted by E-bike on November 13, 2011 at 7:44 pm

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