Forget W3B, Paris



Spacecraft re-entry over the South Pacific? Sorry, that won’t happen any time soon. Eutelsat’s W3B spacecraft, launched on 28 October 2010, developed a huge propellant leak and was rendered useless soon thereafter. Instead of a planning scuttling into the South Pacific Ocean, that Spacebus 4000C3 will be in orbit for decades. Via Space News

 The Eutelsat W3B satellite declared a total loss less than 24 hours after its Oct. 28 launch because of a leak in its propulsion system will spend the next 20 to 30 years in its parking orbit following ground teams’ inability to guide it into a controlled atmospheric re-entry, satellite manufacturer Thales Alenia Space said Nov. 5.

The company said that it has rendered the satellite inert to the extent possible — emptying its helium pressurization tank and whatever fuel remains in liquid state and can be discharged, as well as draining its batteries — to minimize the likelihood that W3B explodes on contact with any orbital debris it may encounter in its elliptical orbit.

Too bad they couldn’t ram it into Galaxy 15, the world’s favorite zombie satellite.

But seriously, this is a real bummer for all the people who worked on this mission for years at Eutelsat, Ariane and Thales. I remember Astra 1K and it was depressing. Reminds us that this rocket science business is very complex and carries high risks across the board.