Two Loral Satellites Cleared To Launch After IS-19 Problems

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PARIS — Europe’s Arianespace launch consortium said June 11 it will launch the EchoStar 17 consumer broadband satellite on July 5, a decision that suggests satellite owner EchoStar and Hughes Network Systems — and their insurance underwriters — are confident their $300 million-plus investment is not at risk of the solar array deployment failure that has crippled a similarly built satellite.

Evry, France-based Arianespace said its Ariane 5 ECA rocket will carry the EchoStar 17 Ka-band satellite and Europe’s MSG-3 meteorological satellite into geostationary transfer orbit.

IS-19 was launched aboard a Sea Launch Zenit 3SL rocket from Sea Launch AG’s floating platform in the Pacific Ocean.

The Arianespace announcement followed the decision by satellite manufacturer Space Systems/Loral (SS/L) to resume deliveries of spacecraft despite the failure of the SS/L-built Intelsat 19 (IS-19) satellite to deploy one of its two solar arrays following a May 31 launch.

In consultation with satellite owner SES of Luxembourg, SS/L cleared International Launch Services (ILS) of Reston, Va., to prepare the SES-5 satellite, another SS/L spacecraft, for launch June 20 aboard a Russian Proton rocket from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan.

A board of inquiry has been established to determine the cause of the failure, but Bern, Switzerland-based Sea Launch and SS/L, based in Palo Alto, Calif., both said the launch featured an unexplained, anomalous pressure event 72 seconds after liftoff.

SS/L said a similar event occurred during a 2004 launch of the Estrela do Sul-1 satellite, whose solar array never deployed. SS/L said it is confident there is no problem with its LS 1300 satellite frame and no reason to delay further launches that are not on Sea Launch.

Sea Launch issued a statement June 8 saying that it has seen this kind of pressure event only once before — during the 2004 launch of the SS/L satellite. Early indications are that all Sea Launch systems performed as designed during the launch, Sea Launch said.

Sea Launch said it will take several more days before it has sorted through all the data from sensors inside the rocket’s fairing during the IS-19 launch.

Until that analysis is complete, it will be up to each satellite owner and its insurance underwriters to determine whether the IS-19 failure is a Sea Launch issue, an SS/L issue or the result of some unusual reaction between the vehicle and the SS/L satellite design.

“One thing that we might do is go slow on the EchoStar 17 preparations to give us time to see what happens with SES-5,” said one official involved in the EchoStar 17 program. “It’s a bit scary having no answers.”