SES keeps options open over ‘lost’ SES-14

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The launch of SES-14 (and YahSat-3) on January 26th by an Arianespace rocket from French Guiana created more than a few worries for the satellites owners.

The problem was, as described by Arianespace, a “trajectory deviation anomaly” meaning the two satellites were deployed into incorrect orbits. At one stage it was thought the two expensive craft might have been lost.

That was not the case, and both satellites were speedily communicated with and given fresh instructions which took them into their correct transfer orbits via new “orbit raising” actions. However, there were consequences for both SES and YahSat in that the satellites will take much longer to reach their correct orbital slots.

Those consequences could lead to claims for compensation. SES says that its satellite will take an extra month to reach its intended orbit, although the satellite will still meet its designed 15-year life-in-orbit. SES will await the report of the investigation committee findings and then determine its next action.

SES-14 is an all-electric craft, but Al Yah-3 is a hybrid bi-propellant craft dependent on its main engine to raise its orbit and then fine-tuning its position with its on-board thrusters. Al Yah-3 is likely to be ready for work “later in 2018” according to the company.

The independent investigation is headed up by the European Space Agency’s General Inspector (Toni Tolker-Nielsen), as well as senior industry figures.

SES will certainly lose a month’s revenues because of its later arrival on station. YahSat-3 will also suffer, and this impacts Eutelsat, which has booked capacity on some of the satellite’s 53 Ka-band beams for its ‘Konnect Africa’ service and thus will also be impacted by lost revenues.


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