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Intelsat I-33e problems could mean insurance payout

It hasn’t been a secret that the recent launch of Intelsat’s latest ‘Epic’ satellite suffered a post-launch problem.  The important satellite was launched on August 24th, and all seemed well, but on September 9th Intelsat said that a “malfunction of its primary [electric] thruster” had suffered an anomaly.

The primary electric thruster is designed to lift the satellite through its geostationary transfer orbit, slowly but steadily. These electric thrusters take a satellite into orbit without using ‘conventional’ chemical rocket thrusters.

Intelsat said the Boeing-built High Throughput satellite, destined to operate from 60 deg East, would not now arrive at its orbital position as expected in Q4, and following testing come into service before year-end. It is designed to replace Intelsat 904 when it arrives on station.

However, the Thruster problem means that it will take a few more weeks to reach orbit. Intelsat’s president Steven Spengler told the Euroconsult Satellite Business Week in Paris that I-33e would not now enter service until Q1/next year. He implied that this was the limit of the impact.

It has now emerged on the sidelines of the conference that the problem might trim up to 1.5 years from the satellite’s operational life. The problem means that this glitch could lead to an insurance claim of up to a reported $40 million payout.

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