Eutelsat's W3B satellite lost hours after launch

Satellite company Eutelsat Communications said that it has lost one of its satellites, the W3B, after an “anomaly” was detected on the propulsion subsystem after it was launched.

The W3B satellite was launched early this morning by an Ariane 5 rocket and was expected to replace Eutelsat’s Eurobird 16, W2M, and SESAT 1 satellites at 16 degrees East, all of which provide satellite TV and other telecommunications services to homes in Europe, Africa and the Middle East.

However, the satellite inexplicably failed to reach its destination, setting back Eutelsat’s operations. The company revealed that the anomaly was a leak in one of the satellite’s two tanks, but it said it does not know what caused the problem.

Eutelsat will now keep the three older satallites in operation until the W3C launches in July 2011, providing, of course, that one doesn’t encounter problems as well. The company said that these satellites should have enough life left to keep things going until the W3C arrives.

A new satellite programme, called W3D, has also been announced in face of the loss, with a planned launch date in the first quarter of 2013.

“The loss of W3B is a disappointment for Eutelsat and for our customers,” said Michel de Rosen, CEO of Eutelsat Communications. “We share it with our partners, in particular Thales Alenia Space and with the insurance community. Our attention is now focused on delivering the W3C satellite to 16 degrees East in mid-2011 and on initiating a new programme to compensate for this loss.”

The W3B satellite was fully insured, which means that Eutelsat will not suffer financially due to the loss, but it does set back the company’s plans for upwards of a year. Luckily for Eutelsat it signed the insurance deal only yesterday, which covers five satellite launches.