Eutelsat loses W2M

Eutelsat’s satellite W2M has failed with a “major anomaly” of the craft’s power subsystem. The satellite was only launched on Dec 20. W2M was built by EADS-Astrium but with the all-important satellite core coming from India’s Space Research Organisation (ISRO).

The loss is a significant blow to ISRO which had worked hard to enter the lucrative market for mainstream DTH satellites. W2M had been destined for Eutelsat’s 16 deg East slot.

W2M was widely reported to have earned a $40m profit for Bangalore-based ISRO. The craft was fully insured, but it is as yet unclear how the insurance cover is structured and whether that anticipated profit will be impacted. W2M was the first satellite to have been built for a non-Indian client.

Eutelsat, in a statement, said the satellite “does not comply with the requirements set with the spacecraft's manufacturer, EADS Astrium/ISRO Antrix, following a major anomaly affecting the satellite's power subsystem. This anomaly occurred during the satellite's transfer from the location used for in-orbit tests to its operating position at 16 degrees East where its mission was to replace well in advance Eutelsat's W2 satellite.”

While Eutelsat has declared the craft will not be absorbed into Eutelsat’s fleet, it could be that following the technical investigation – and a decision by the insurers – there could be life still in the craft, although significantly below the original mission plan.

Eutelsat’s statement added:
• W2 will continue its mission at 16 degrees East with no impact on currently operational services.
• Eutelsat's W3B satellite, ordered in February 2008, and designed with a high degree of flexibility to ensure Ku-band continuity at either 16 degrees East, 10 degrees East or 36 degrees East, will now be deployed at 16 degrees East. Scheduled for launch in mid-2010, W3B will increase the number of operational transponders at 16 degrees East from 27 to 56.
• Eutelsat is analysing options using its existing in-orbit resources for meeting the requirements of clients who were expected to benefit from the increased capacity on W2M in comparison to W2. The number of operational transponders at 16 degrees East was scheduled to increase from 27 to up to 30.

Commenting on these decisions, Eutelsat Communications Chairman and CEO Giuliano Berretta said: "The situation affecting W2M is a serious disappointment for Eutelsat. However, for many years we have pursued a strategy based on securing and expanding our in-orbit resources in order to mitigate this type of risk. Our current investment programme consequently combines early renewal of operating satellites, together with securing the fleet through readily available back-up resources, and expansion of services with larger satellites. This policy puts us in a position to absorb the unavailability of W2M without impact on the continuity of service we provide our customers."