Boeing Postpones ILS Proton Launch of Mexico’s Centenario Satellite

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UPDATED April 30 at 12:44 p.m. EDT

KENNEDY SPACE CENTER, Florida — A suspected problem on an unidentified Boeing-built satellite caused Boeing to postpone the scheduled April 30 launch of Mexico’s large Centenario mobile-communications satellite until the company is sure that Centenario does not have the same issue.

International Launch Services of Reston, Virginia, on April 27 confirmed that the launch aboard an ILS Proton rocket from Russia’s Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan would be postponed until further notice.

El Segundo, California-based Boeing Space and Intelligence Systems on April 27 declined to identify the satellite with the suspected anomaly or to specify whether the satellite was in Boeing’s factory or already in orbit.

One industry official said the satellite in question is the Morelos-3 spacecraft, nearly identical to Centenario, which is in production at Boeing and preparing for a launch later this year on an Atlas 5 rocket. The official said the problem has to do with the L-band antenna.

In a statement, Boeing said:

“Though we are unable to comment at this time on the other spacecraft or the nature of the anomaly, Boeing believes there is no issue at this time with Centanario, a 702 satellite that has been built for the government of Mexico.

“However, our normal due-diligence practices leading to launch include evaluating any ongoing in factory or on-orbit anomaly investigations for potential impact to that launch. This assessment is not complete for one anomalous condition. As a result, we have postponed our consent to launch Centenario pending completion of this assessment.”

Boeing spokeswoman Joanna Climer said current indications are that the issue likely will be resolved in a matter of days.

Mexico’s Secretariat of Communications and Transportation, which is the owner of the Centenario satellite, said in an April 24 statement that the anomaly was found on a spacecraft with similar characteristics to those of Centenario.

Centenario is one of two nearly identical L-band mobile communications satellites built by Boeing for Mexico’s Mexsat system. A third, smaller satellite, Bicentenario, was built by Orbital ATK of Dulles, Virginia, under contract to Boeing and launched in December 2012.

The two Boeing-built satellites, named Centenario and Morelos 3, were completed in November 2013 and June 2014 and have been in storage awaiting launch, one aboard a United Launch Alliance Atlas 5 rocket and the other aboard an ILS Proton.