(Updated 5:30 am) -- A Russian Proton rocket launched a new communications satellite into orbit tonight set to provide high definition broadcasting for the Latin American region.
The International Launch Services Proton M rocket lifted-off at 7:39 pm EST, Thursday (0039 GMT) or 6:39 am local time this morning from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan.
Carrying the Intelsat 16 television satellite, the Proton departed a very cold, below zero launch complex 39 and climbed into a dark sky as it flew eastward powered by six RD-275 engines in a 360-degree formation.
Total lift-off weight of the fueled rocket was 1,523,000 million pounds. Proton's thrust at launch was 2,360,000 to compensate and be able to win the fight over gravity.
Two minutes into the flight, the first stage burned out and was jettisoned. The four engine second stage then fired for the next three and one-half minutes propelling the craft higher as it continued on it's 51 degree inclination.
After burning it's third stage, the Breeze-M upper stage began a series of four major burns to get the spacecraft closer to it's transfer orbit of 308 x 23,412 miles as the vehicle crossed over an area between northwest Africa and southern Europe.
After achieving a near geostationary orbit, the Breeze-M released Intelsat 16 at 5:14 am EST (1014 GMT) this morning as it flew high off Africa's east coast and above the equator. Intelsat 16 will begin a nearly 15 year mission in a few months providing HDTV services to Mexico and Brazil through SKY network, a division of DIRECTv.