Delayed O3b Satellites Should be Ready for March Launch

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PARIS — The four O3b broadband satellites that missed their scheduled September launch following discovery of a suspected component defect will be the subject of a design review the week of Nov. 4 that should enable repairs to be made in time for a March launch, O3b Chief Executive Steve Collar said Nov. 1.

Collar said that the first four O3b satellites, already in orbit, have not exhibited any further degradation to their performance since mid-September, when a signal anomaly first tipped O3b and manufacturer Thales Alenia Space to a possible problem.

In an interview, Collar said he was nonetheless happy, in retrospect, to have called off the planned late-September launch of the second batch of satellites aboard a Europeanized version of Russia’s Soyuz rocket.

Collar said the design review at Thales Alenia Space’s Rome facility in all likelihood will validate the proposed repair work. In that case, he said, the satellites’ digital timing units could be replaced in time to ship the satellites to Europe’s Guiana Space Center, on the northeast coast of South America, by mid-February in view to a March launch.

Collar said that once O3b and Thales Alenia Space have set a firm shipment date, O3b will approach launch services provider Arianespace to set a firm launch date.

The same component issue that delayed O3b has more recently delayed the launch of Europe’s Gaia star-mapping science satellite, whose scheduled Nov. 20 liftoff was scrapped.

Gaia managers have said the location of the suspect timing unit on their satellite makes it easy to remove. In O3b’s case, the units are much further embedded into the satellites, which was one reason why the spacecraft were returned from the launch site to the Rome manufacturing plant.

Gaia has remained at the spaceport, with its defective timing unit returned to Italy. The repaired unit will be shipped back to the launch base in time for a Dec. 20 launch.

 

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