TerreStar Launch Slips


Last month, Eutelsat reported an on-orbit anomaly to its W2A spacecraft’s S-band payload. Although disclosure of this type is material to a  firm’s financial performance, most spacecraft bus and/or payload anomalies are shared with other operators.

Unlike the business side, spacecraft engineering departments know what their counterparts are up to — especially when it comes to anomalies. On-orbit anomalies? Everybody knows about them almost instantly, although it may not become public information for weeks or months.

For those designing/building payloads on the ground, this is absolutely essential information. Make changes now, or "pfft," you’re done. That’s why the TerreStar-1’s launch is slipping a few weeks:

…the launch of TerreStar-1 has been rescheduled for a July 7-12, 2009 window to permit additional time to ensure that an on-orbit anomaly that occurred recently on another operator’s satellite has no bearing on the flight worthiness of TerreStar-1.

"While our vendors have assured us that TerreStar-1 is ready to launch, we believe this short delay may provide a window for additional data to verify that TerreStar-1, including its 18 meter reflector, is unaffected by the anomaly reported by another operator’s S Band satellite," Dennis Matheson, CTO of TerreStar said.

Arianespace, TerreStar-1’s launch services provider, has agreed to this updated launch schedule.

"Throughout the construction of TerreStar-1 we have emphasized quality and certainty over speed. Today’s revised launch schedule is another example of our commitment to eliminate unnecessary risks when we can," said Jeffrey Epstein, President of TerreStar. 

The Eutelsat W2A anomaly prompted a terse statement from Solaris Mobile, the payload’s beneficiary:

Solaris Mobile and its shareholders Eutelsat Communications and SES Astra announce that the current evaluation of the in-orbit tests of the S-band payload on the W2A satellite launched on April 3 indicate an anomaly which requires further tests.

Additional analysis is consequently planned with the satellite’s prime contractor, Thales Alenia Space, in order to identify the cause of the anomaly and to fully assess the extent of the Sband payload’s capability to provide mobile satellite services to the European marketplace.

Solaris Mobile remains confident of its ability to meet the commitments made according to the European Selection and Authorisation Process, under which it has applied for S-band spectrum to provide these services. The company is evaluating a range of options to compensate for this situation and expects to make further announcements in due course.