Astra 5A loss explained

Satellite builder Thales Alenia has given its explanation as to why Astra 5A was declared a total loss on Jan 16. Astra 5A first suffered problems back on Oct 22 last year.

Thales Alenia says that Astra 5A experienced an abnormal event that led to a spacecraft attitude disturbance. Launched on November 12, 1997 by an Ariane rocket, and carrying 32 Ku-band transponders, the spacecraft was designed for a minimum lifetime of 12 years.

The reconfiguration attempts, which followed the incident, could not restore the craft into a stable sun-pointing attitude and the efforts consumed a significant amount of propellant as well as discharging the satellite’s on-board batteries. This led Swedish Space Corp (which was operating the satellite) to declare the loss of the spacecraft.

The root cause of the incident as well as its possible connection to an incident in October 2008 are currently under investigation by an Inquiry Board. The technical teams of Thales Alenia Space, SSC and SES are tracking the satellite and are working closely to initiate any possible safety actions.

All clients and services that were operating from Astra 5A have been transferred to other satellites.