Yamal-402 Enters Service Following Errant Launch

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PARIS — Gazprom Space Systems’ Yamal-402 telecommunications satellite was declared fully operational Jan. 8 in its final position in geostationary orbit at 55 degrees east longitude and will operate for about 11.5 years despite being left in a badly off-target location by its Proton launcher in December, according to officials familiar with the satellite.

The Moscow-based satellite operator had been counting on Yamal-402 as a key component in a broad expansion of its in-orbit fleet, and had said it had succeeded in booking customers for more than half the satellite’s capacity even before launch.

Yamal-402 manufacturer Thales Alenia Space of France and Italy said the in-orbit acceptance review concluded Jan. 8 with a clean bill of health for the satellite, and that the spacecraft’s in-service start date suffered no delays despite the salvage effort needed to move it from its useless drop-off point to its intended operating location.

The salvage effort consumed the equivalent of several years of Yamal-402 fuel, however. The satellite was designed to operate for a minimum of 15 years, and likely would have lasted longer than that were it not for the Proton mishap.

International Launch Services of Reston, Va., which markets Proton launches commercially, along with Proton manufacturer Khrunichev Space Center of Moscow and a government-appointed board of inquiry have yet to conclude their investigation into what caused the rocket’s Breeze-M upper stage to shut down prematurely during the Yamal-402 launch.