October 30, 2010

Eutelsat Spacecraft Fails Before Launch

Eutelsat said its most recent spacecraft failed less than 24 hours before being launched on an Ariane rocket from French Guiana.

The Paris-based satellite operator said the W3B platform developed a leaked in its propellant system and could not raise itself into orbit.

The spacecraft would have been stationed high above the equator at 16 degrees East, to help provide TV, radio, Internet and other data services to Europe, Africa, the Middle East and the Indian Ocean islands.

Eutelsat has another satellite known as W3C that is expected to go into orbit in the 16-East slot in the second half of 2011.

"It's a massive disappointment," said Eutelsat's Vanessa O'Connor, "but our job now as an operator is to continue our services and make sure W3C gets there as soon as possible, and that we expedite the new program to replace W3B," she told BBC News.

The failed spacecraft's co-passenger on the Ariane flight was BSat-3b, a TV services platform that Tokyo's B-Sat Corporation owns.  

The Ariane rocket released both the spacecrafts within minutes of one another.

The spacecraft would have used their own propulsion systems to refine their orbits at a geostationary altitude of about 22,000 miles.  However, engineers in contact with W3B noticed through Thursday night that the satellite was losing propellant.

Eutelsat is one of the world's four big fixed satellite services (FSS) operators.  Its fleet of spacecraft carries thousands of TV channels.

W3B was expected to replace three other spacecraft at 16 degrees East.

The company will return to the launch pad in December with Ka-Sat, its first broadband-dedicated spacecraft for Europe.

Over a million subscribers in rural areas will be targeted for the project.


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