Eutelsat sends 5WA to graveyard slot
January 20, 2023
By Chris Forrester
Eutelsat has decommissioned its 5WA satellite. The craft, designed for a 15-year mission, actually lasted more than 20 years. Launched in 2002, it has now been repositioned to a high ‘graveyard’ orbit some 400 kms higher than the usual geostationary arc which is the normal position for giant communications satellites.
Eutelsat described the long lifetime of the satellite as an “exceptionally extended operational life”. Eutelsat 5 West A enabled the transition to digital television, notably in France in the early 2000s, when analogue television technology was converted to and replaced by digital broadcasting.
The satellite was successfully re-orbited as planned to more than 400km above the geostationary arc, the propulsion system depressurised and the electrical equipment on board passivated. The final operation to de-activate the remaining Radio Frequency source (telemetry transmitter) was performed from the Issy-les-Moulineaux Satellite Control Centre on January 13th.
The End-of-Life activities operated by mission control teams placed the satellite in safe conditions with an orbit and configuration fully compliant with French Space Law and international Space Traffic Management recommendations.
Built by Alcatel Alenia Space (now Thales Alenia Space), the satellite was originally built on behalf of Stellat. Shortly after its launch in July 2002, the satellite was bought by Eutelsat and renamed Atlantic Bird-3, operating from the 5° West orbital position where it remained for its entire operational life. It was given the name Eutelsat 5 West A in 2012 and operated in an inclined orbit since the end of 2019, which enabled an extended lifespan of the satellite.
A progressive transfer of services to the new Eutelsat 5 West B satellite, as well as other satellites of the Eutelsat fleet, was started in January 2020, ensuring seamless continuity of operations for customers. The Eutelsat 5 West A continued to operate until its decommissioning, notably providing maritime connectivity.
Eva Berneke, Eutelsat CEO, commented: “The impressive extended lifespan of Eutelsat 5 West A showcases the first-rate satellite control expertise of the Eutelsat teams. The satellite provided an overall service availability of 99.999 per cent, a figure that stands as a testament to the hard work and dedication of all the Eutelsat teams who have worked together throughout the years on this mission.”