Launch problems for SES-14/YahSat-3

Federico Mansilla
Enero 26, 2018

"Indeed, we lost contact with the launcher a few seconds after ignition of the upper stage", Arianespace CEO Stephane Israel said during the launch broadcast.

The Ariane 5 directly competes with Russian Proton rockets and lower-cost SpaceX Falcon 9 boosters in the commercial launch market, typically carrying two relay stations at a time to orbit.

Ariane 5 has rarely failed in the past, as the workhorse of the European space industry. Thankfully, things turned out just fine: its payload communications satellites, the SES 14 and the Al Yah 3, have successfully made it to orbit and resumed communication with their operators.

The mission began with an on-time liftoff from the Guiana Space Center on the northern coast of South America.

The latest launch is the first of a planned 14 missions this year using the heavy-lift Ariane 5, medium-lift Soyuz and lightweight Vega.

"We have had an anomaly on this launch", Israel said in a brief address to VIPs and customer executives. "There are still many times when we would have to build the satellite and do the launch ourselves, but the more tools we have to get into space, the better for our overall science program". An hour after launch, Israel confirmed the rocket suffered an anomaly after the payload separated from the rocket's second stage and contact was lost. "This lack of telemetry lasted throughout the rest of powered flight", Arianespace representatives wrote in a statement a few hours after launch.

Both satellites confirmed separated, acquired, on orbit.

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Sources familiar with the launch said the SES 14 and Al Yah 3 spacecraft may not have been delivered to the exact orbits targeted by the Ariane 5, but officials shared no specifics on the orbital parameters Thursday night. We know that launch is always hard, and tonight Ariane 5 has had an anomaly, so let's take time now to better understand the situation of the satellites. The 8,366-pound (3,795-kilogram) spacecraft is owned by Al Yah Satellite Communications Co. based in Abu Dhabi, and it will be parked at 20 degrees west longitude in geostationary orbit.

Both satellites were designed for missions of at least 15 years, while the GOLD instrument has a two-year mission lifetime.

This mission was designated Flight VA241 in Arianespace's launcher family numbering system.

On the current calendar, the Ariane 5 is due to make up to six more launches this year. This total factors in the two satellite passengers' combined liftoff mass, as well as hardware for Ariane 5's dual-payload deployment system.

BepiColombo will kick off a seven-year journey to Mercury when it lifts off October 5.

A rocket launched by a commercial space company with expensive NASA payload on board appeared doomed, but it managed to pull off a successful launch.

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