Eutelsat Places Order for a W3B Replacement Satellite

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PARIS — Satellite fleet operator Eutelsat on Dec. 3 announced it has ordered a satellite to replace the W3B spacecraft lost Oct. 28 in a still-unexplained propulsion leak.

The new satellite, called W3D, will be built by the same contracting team, led by Thales Alenia Space of France and Italy, which built the W3B. Paris-based Eutelsat said W3D will be built in 24 months, making it ready for service in early 2013. A launch-vehicle selection was not announced.

W3D, carrying 53 Ku-band and three Ka-band transponders, will be co-positioned with Eutelsat’s W3A satellite to boost capacity at 7 degrees east, a slot Eutelsat is counting on for future growth.

In a Dec. 3 statement, Eutelsat Chief Executive Michel de Rosen said the company’s W3C spacecraft, also built by Thales Alenia Space, is still scheduled for launch by mid-2011. That satellite, to be placed at Eutelsat’s 16 degrees east position, is to be launched by a Chinese Long March rocket.

A Long March vehicle was originally intended to launch W3B before it was switched to Europe’s Ariane 5 ECA rocket because of a lack of spare non-American components. To be eligible for export to China, a satellite must have no U.S. components covered by a list of hardware on the U.S. International Traffic in Arms Regulations (ITAR), which is enforced by the U.S. State Department.

One insurance official involved in the review of the W3B failure said that no matter what the final cause is determined to be, Eutelsat will receive a full insurance payment of some 245 million euros ($331 million). What does need to be determined among the many underwriters that subscribed to the coverage is how to apportion the payment among insurers who signed on only for the launcher portion of the insurance, and those who signed on only for the satellite.

As of Dec. 3, the board of inquiry investigating the loss of W3B has not delivered its conclusions.