Spaceflight Now Home

Spaceflight Now +

Subscribe to Spaceflight Now Plus for access to our extensive video collections!
How do I sign up?
Video archive

STS-126: In review

The STS-126 crew narrates highlights from its mission that remodeled the interior of the space station.


Expedition 19 crew

The Russian commander and two American astronauts to serve aboard the space station during the Expedition 19 mission hold this pre-flight news briefing.


Delta 4-Heavy launch

The Delta 4-Heavy rocket launches a new intelligence-gathering satellite for the nation.

 Full coverage

STS-119: Shuttle on pad

Shuttle Discovery rolls to pad 39A for its February launch to the space station.


STS-119: The programs

In advance of shuttle Discovery's STS-119 mission to the station, managers from both programs discuss the flight.


STS-119: The mission

A detailed preview of Discovery's mission to deliver and activate the space station's final power truss is provided in this briefing.


STS-119: Spacewalks

Four spacewalks are planned during Discovery's STS-119 mission to the station.


STS-119: The Crew

The Discovery astronauts, led by commander Lee Archambault, meet the press in the traditional pre-flight news conference.


Station's new toilet

Space station commander Mike Fincke shows the new U.S. toilet installed aboard the complex. The astronauts are preparing the station for larger crews beginning in 2009.


Become a subscriber
More video


Sign up for our NewsAlert service and have the latest news in astronomy and space e-mailed direct to your desktop.

Enter your e-mail address:

Privacy note: your e-mail address will not be used for any other purpose.

New European TV satellite fails quickly in space

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.

An artist's concept of the W2M satellite. Credit: EADS Astrium
The W2M satellite was being moved from a testing location to its permanent location in geosynchronous orbit at 16 degrees east longitude when officials noticed trouble.

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.

The W2M undergoes preps at the launch site. Credit: Arianespace
The broadcasting satellite was the first product of a new satellite manufacturing consortium formed by EADS Astrium and Antrix, the commercial arm of the Indian Space Research Organization.

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.