Intelsat 33e Boeing
Intelsat has yet to gauge whether the impact of a thruster malfunction on its second high-throughput satellite, Intelsat 33e, warrants involving insurers. Credit: Intelsat.

WASHINGTON —  Satellite operator Intelsat’s second high-throughput satellite, Intelsat 33e, entered service Jan. 29 after a protracted journey to orbit caused by a thruster malfunction, but the company has not yet decided if it will file an insurance claim.

Intelsat 33e launched Aug. 24 aboard an Arianespace Ariane 5 rocket, and was originally due to begin commercial operations during the fourth quarter of 2016, but the company discovered that the satellite’s primary thruster would not be able to lift it to its intended orbital slot. Using a backup system, the Boeing-built satellite completed orbit raising in December, and began in-orbit testing. The extra time needed for the orbit raising shifted the satellite’s in-service date into 2017.

Stephen Spengler, Intelsat’s CEO, said in September that the effect of the thruster malfunction on Intelsat 33e’s lifespan was minimal. However, the operator is still deciding whether the impact is substantial enough to file a claim with insurers. Dianne VanBeber, Intelsat’s vice president of investor relations and communications, told SpaceNews Feb. 3 the operator is “still working through the analysis” on the satellite.

Insurance officials have said in the past that Intelsat 33e’s thruster issue could shave up to 18 months off the satellite’s life, which would make Intelsat eligible to file an insurance claim worth up to $40 million for a 10 percent loss of service.

Intelsat 33e carries C and Ku-band high-throughput capacity, covering Africa, Europe, the Middle East and Asia from 60 degrees east. The satellite follows Intelsat 29e, the operator’s first EpicNG HTS satellite, which launched in January 2016 over the Americas and North Atlantic Ocean region.

Intelsat has three more EpicNG-series HTS satellites planned to launch in 2017 — Intelsat 32e, Intelsat 35e and Intelsat 37e —  followed by Horizons 3e, a joint satellite with Japan-based Sky Perfect JSAT, to complete global HTS coverage in 2018.

Caleb Henry is a former SpaceNews staff writer covering satellites, telecom and launch. He previously worked for Via Satellite and NewSpace Global.He earned a bachelor’s degree in political science along with a minor in astronomy from...