New European TV satellite fails quickly in space
BY STEPHEN CLARK
Posted: January 28, 2009
Eutelsat's five-week-old communications satellite has been struck by a "major anomaly" in its power system and is unable to begin operational service, the company said in a statement Wednesday.
Eutelsat officials had planned to integrate W2M into the company's operational constellation, but now the satellite will be withheld from service as engineers investigate the problem.
"The situation affecting W2M is a serious disappointment for Eutelsat," said Giuliano Berretta, Eutelsat's chairman and CEO.
W2M was built to replace the 11-year-old W2 satellite stationed at 16 degrees east. The new satellite was designed to continue and expand Eutelsat's broadcasting service from that orbital location.
Eutelsat will now dispatch the W3B spacecraft to the 16 degrees east location after its scheduled launch in 2010. The company said it is analyzing options to satisfy the demands of customers until then.
W2M was to broadcast direct-to-home television, broadband Internet and data networking services to customers across Europe, the Middle East and southern Africa.
Berretta said the Eutelsat's strategy of early replacement of aging spacecraft, plus the use of backup satellites designed with flexibility to replace failed birds, will help the company handle the loss of W2M.
"This policy puts us in a position to absorb the unavailability of W2M without impact on the continuity of service we provide our customers," Berretta said.
The satellite is fully insured and its failure will not affect Eutelsat's planned revenues this year, the company said in a statement.
W2M was launched Dec. 20 aboard an Ariane 5 rocket on a dual-payload
flight with Hot Bird 9, another Eutelsat spacecraft. Controllers
subsequently boosted the satellite into geosynchronous orbit with an
altitude of 22,300 miles to begin in-orbit testing.
Indian engineers are currently controlling the satellite as officials look into the anomaly, according to Eutelsat.
The W2M contract was signed in February 2006 in the presence of the French president and the Indian prime minister.
Antrix was in charge of the spacecraft bus, including much of the suspect power system, and oversaw the satellite's integration and testing in India. W2M, the largest and most powerful satellite built by India, is based on the I-3K satellite design used by newer members of the country's INSAT fleet.
W2M's power system includes twin solar array wings and two batteries designed to produce more than 7 kilowatts of power at the beginning of the satellite's planned 15-year life.
The Eutelsat statement did not specify what equipment was responsible for the anomaly, and officials did not immediately respond to inquiries.
Astrium provided W2M's communications payload, which is made up of up to 30 operational Ku-band transponders.
The group will also build the Hylas communications satellite for U.K.-based Avanti Communications, but that spacecraft will be based on the smaller I-2K platform, according to Avanti.
Astrium and Antrix signed another agreement last year to offer the use of Indian launch services for Astrium-built Earth observation satellites.