Glitch Send Eutelsat's W2 Telecom Satellite into Safe Mode

Eutelsat’s W2 telecommunications satellite, which operates at one of the company’s fastest-growing orbital slots, suffered an unexplained on-board failure and placed itself into sun-pointing safe mode late Jan. 27, forcing Eutelsat to off-load customers to two satellites at the same slot and to send another satellite to the affected position, Eutelsat said Jan. 28. regards Nick

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 contractual service life of 12 years, operates at Eutelsat’s 16 degrees east orbital slot.

Eutelsat spokeswoman Vanessa O’Connor 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 also located at the 16-degree slot. In addition, O’Connor said Eutelsat’s W2M satellite, which had been located at 3 degrees east without serving a commercial mission, will be drifted to the 16 degrees east position to handle at least some of the W2 traffic.

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

O’Connor said that despite this, W2M retains a limited commercial potential and will be able to pick up some of the W2 customers at least on an interim basis.

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.??