The first Arianespace Ariane 5 launch of 2018 is being declared a success despite anomalies in the process. The net result is that SES-14 will ultimately reach its assigned orbit, though not quite when expected. Yahsat’s Al Yah 3 satellite was also on the launch and is also expected to reach its proper orbit.
Instant replay! Watch tonight’s flawless #Ariane5 liftoff from the Spaceport in French Guiana, which commenced #Arianespace’s year-opening flight at the service of @SES_Satellites and @yahsatofficial. #VA241 #MissiontoSuccess pic.twitter.com/FOLv5ZtJVm
— Stéphane Israël (@arianespaceceo) January 25, 2018
The rocket failed to communicate with the tracking systems after the ignition of the second stage. This lack of telemetry continued for the duration of the launch mission. Despite the lack of telemetry data the rocket continued its mission mostly as expected. Arianespace reported that the satellites successfully separated and were placed in orbit.
Subsequently, both satellites were confirmed separated, acquired and they are on orbit. SES-14 and Al Yah 3 are communicating with their respective control centers. Both missions are continuing.
Ku Coverage for the Americas
SES confirms that its SES-14 satellite is online and that the company has control of the system. The statement also indicates that the transfer orbit insertion was not as planned.
Following the anomaly that occurred during the launch on an Ariane 5 rocket last night, SES announces that it has successfully established a telemetry and telecommand connection to its SES-14 spacecraft and is setting up a new orbit raising plan now. SES-14 would thus reach the geostationary orbit only four weeks later than originally planned. SES confirms that the spacecraft is in good health, all subsystems on board are nominal, and the satellite is expected to meet the designed life time.
Without the telemetry data from the launcher we are unlikely to know exactly why the launcher failed to put the satellites into their proper transfer orbit slots. Fortunately, however, the short delay to activation and expected full life of operation for SES-14 means the primary mission can be considered a success, even with the anomaly.
SES-14 will provide a significant boost to Ku-band capacity over the Americas and the North Atlantic. Leading Ku-band inflight connectivity providers Global Eagle, Panasonic Avionics and Gogo all contracted for capacity on SES-14 to augment their networks. The SES-14 coverage will complement SES-15 which entered service in late 2017.
Ka Coverage in Africa & Brazil
Similar to the SES launch, the Al Yah 3 satellite did not enter its expected GEO transfer location. Eutelsat issued a statement on Friday:
The mission experienced some challenges during the launch stages which resulted in the Al Yah 3 satellite being inserted into an orbit that differed from the flight plan. Thereafter, the satellite was successfully acquired by Yahsat and the satellite is healthy and operating nominally. A revised flight plan will be executed in order to achieve the operational orbit and fulfill the original mission.
The Al Yah 3 satellite will deliver a significant Ka-band capacity boost over Africa, covering more than 60% of the continent’s population. The Brazilian reach covers 95% of that country’s people. The Yahsat service is focused more on terrestrial applications than mobility and aviation.
Still, Yahsat continues to develop its inflight connectivity portfolio. The company recently delivered Ka-band connectivity to an A320 aircraft in cooperation with Etihad Airways Engineering. The limited Ka-band coverage of the Yahsat satellites suggests that its solutions are regional at best right now.
Header image: SES-14 in RF testing, courtesy of Airbus Defense and Space