Satellite Issue Prompts Ariane 5 Launch Delay

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The scheduled Dec. 21 launch of an Ariane 5 ECA rocket carrying two telecommunications satellites has slipped to at least Dec. 27 following a problem with one of the satellites’ components, which will be replaced, industry officials said Dec. 3.

A weeklong launch delay will not be a serious issue for either Hispasat of Spain, which owns the Hispasat 1E satellite, or for KT Corp. of South Korea, owner of the Koreasat 6 spacecraft. But any further slip that takes the launch out of 2010 could be a financial headache for launch consortium Arianespace of Evry, France.

Because of launch delays earlier in the year, Arianespace will be limited in 2010 to six launches instead of the planned seven. The company also has incurred extra costs as three launch campaigns were started and then stopped at the last minute.

As a result, the company is almost certain to report a loss for 2010, after reporting a minor loss in 2009, even if it conducts six launches. Being limited to five would only deepen the loss for the year.

Industry officials said the component in question is on the Star platform provided by Orbital Sciences Corp. of Dulles, Va., for Koreasat 6, for which Thales Alenia Space of France and Italy is prime contractor and is providing the electronics payload.