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[29.01.2010] Glitch Takes Eutelsat W2 Out of Action

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By Peter B. de Selding

TOULOUSE, France Eutelsats W2 telecommunications satellite, which operates at one of the companys fastest-growing orbital slots, suffered an unexplained on-board failure and placed itself into sun-pointing safe mode late Jan. 27, forcing Eutelsat to begin off-loading customers to three satellites at the same location, including two that just recently arrived there, Eutelsat said Jan. 28.

As of mid-day Jan. 28, Paris-based Eutelsat and the W2 prime contractor, Thales Alenia Space of France and Italy, were still trying to determine what happened and whether the satellite has suffered a permanent failure or only a temporary glitch.

While in emergency sun-acquisition mode, the satellite continues to receive and send commands, but it cannot perform its full telecommunications mission.

W2, launched in October 1998 with a 12-year contractual in-orbit service life, operates at Eutelsats 16 degrees east longitude orbital slot.

Eutelsat spokeswoman Vanessa OConnor said Jan. 28 that Eutelsat will be able to move some W2 customers to the Eurobird 16 satellite, formerly called Atlantic Bird 4, which is located at the same slot. In addition, OConnor said Eutelsats W2M satellite, which had been located at 3 degrees east without serving a commercial mission, has recently arrived at the 16 degrees east position and will handle at least some of the W2 traffic.

W2M, launched in December 2008, was never put into service because of failures on its power system that became evident just weeks after its launch. Eutelsat subsequently filed an insurance claim for W2M and said the satellite would not be integrated into its commercial fleet.

OConnor said that despite this, W2M retains about 50 percent of its commercial capacity and will be able to pick up some of the W2 customers at least on an interim basis.

A third satellite, Sesat-1, which had long been stationed at 36 degrees east, recently was moved to 16 degrees east as part of a broader Eutelsat program to boost capacity at that location in advance of the arrival of the large W3B satellite to be placed there late this year.

OConnor said the companys objective is to place all W2 customers on the other three satellites at 16 degrees east, at least temporarily, if W2 cannot be returned to operations.

The W2 satellite features a fixed wide beam covering Europe, North Africa and the Middle East. The steerable beam provides broadcasting over the Indian Ocean region to Mauritius and Reunion Island and parts of southeast Africa.

Source: http://www.spacenews.com

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