Eutelsat W3B, launched in the early hours of Friday morning, is considered lost following an otherwise smooth start to the Ariane 5 mission it shared with the BSAT-3b satellite. According to Eutelsat, an anomaly occurred with the satellite’s propulsion subsystem.
In a statement, Michel de Rosen, Eutelsat CEO, said: “The loss of the W3B is a disappointment for Eutelsat and our customers. We share it with our partners, particularly Thales Alenia Space and the insurance community. We will now focus our attention on the delivery of the W3C satellite for entry into service at 16 degrees East by mid-next year and the implementation of a new satellite programme to compensate for this loss.”
The company said it is insured against the financial implications of the loss of satellite. Just 24 hours before the launch, Eutelsat closed a new insurance agreement for the next 5 launches.
“We know the nature of the anomaly, but we don’t know what caused the anomaly,” said De Rosen during a press briefing in Kourou this morning. “What we know is that we have a significant leak in one of the two tanks. The leak is such that we cannot bring the satelite to its position to fulfill its mission. We are still receiving data from satellite, so we will now try to analyse the data.”
Eutelsat said the current three satellites that W3B was set to replace have enough lifetime left to continue the current services at 16 degrees East. The Eutelsat W3C satellite will launch in July 2011 and be placed at this location. De Rosen said it is working with the manufacturer to see if the building process can be speeded up, without giving up strict quality control.
Lifting off on time at 18.51 local time from the Spaceport’s ELA-3 launch zone in French Guiana, the Ariane 5 deployed the two craft during a flight lasting just under 38 minutes.
“With this evening’s success, we already have launched eight large telecommunications satellites since the beginning of 2010, which is more than all of our competitors combined,” said Jean-Yves Le Gall, Arianespace chairman & CEO.
The 5,370-kg W3B satellite for Eutelsat was deployed on the Ariane 5 flight 28 minutes into the mission.
Speaking in Kourou after the launch, Michel de Rosen, Eutelsat CEO, commented: “Tonight’s W3B launch opens a new chapter at our 16 degrees East location, which is already the chosen neighbourhood for over 400 television channels, making it one of our four fastest-growing video positions. The increased capacity and expanded coverage of our new satellite will enable Eutelsat to further raise quality of service and expand the offer provided from a position reaching into our core markets of Europe, Africa and the Middle East.”
Scheduled to enter service in December this year, W3B will replace Eutelsat’s Eurobird 16, W2M and SESAT 1 satellites. Following the transfer to W3B of all existing traffic, each of the three satellites will be redeployed to an alternative position.
The W3B had boasted up to 56 transponders, including three in the Ka-band. The satellite has a high-power footprint optimised for direct-to-home broadcasting in Central Europe. According to recent audience research conducted for Eutelsat there is already an installed base of 11.2 million satellite and cable homes in Central Europe receiving channels from 16 degrees East, making it one of the satellite market’s fastest-growing positions.
High-power coverage over Indian Ocean islands will also support expansion of pay-TV, which reaches into almost 400,000 homes, and accelerate digital switchover in Mauritius and Reunion Island.
To address the market for telecoms and data services, W3B will initiate a new mission for sub-Saharan Africa, through coverage stretching from Senegal to South Africa and enabling connectivity with Europe. This new capacity will respond to high-growth applications including GSM backhaul and Internet access for enterprises, public agencies and consumers.
The next Ariane 5 mission is set for November 25 with another heavy-lift launch, carrying the Intelsat 17 and HYLAS 1 satellites. It will be followed by one additional mission of this workhorse vehicle before the end of 2010.