BBC NEWS Americas Africa Europe Middle East South Asia Asia Pacific
BBCi NEWS   SPORT   WEATHER   WORLD SERVICE   A-Z INDEX     

BBC News World Edition
 You are in: Science/Nature  
News Front Page
Africa
Americas
Asia-Pacific
Europe
Middle East
South Asia
UK
Business
Entertainment
Science/Nature
Technology
Health
-------------
Talking Point
-------------
Country Profiles
In Depth
-------------
Programmes
-------------
BBC Sport
BBC Weather
SERVICES
-------------
EDITIONS
Monday, 2 December, 2002, 18:21 GMT
Stranded satellite may be a write-off
ses-astro
Astra 1k, now in the wrong orbit

Engineers are not optimistic that the ailing Astra 1K satellite - the largest comsat ever launched - can ever be recovered and brought to use.

It was sent up by a Russian Proton rocket on 26 November but failed to get to the correct orbit when the launcher's fourth stage failed.

Controllers managed to stabilise it but the satellite's limited onboard propulsion systems mean they will struggle to move it to its proper operating position.

"We are looking at the possibilities but are not optimistic at this time," a spokesman for Ses-Astra, the company that owns Astra 1K, told BBC News Online.

Failed burn

The Astra 1K should have been put in a geostationary orbit, about 36,000 km (23,000 miles) above the Earth.

The Proton vehicle in which it was travelling is usually very reliable.

ses-astro
At almost 6 tonnes it was the largest ever built
In the past three years, it has had 26 consecutive successes and has already completed six launches in 2002.

But on this occasion, the Proton stage designed to put the satellite into an orbit that would take it from a temporary parking position to its final geostationary location malfunctioned.

The first fourth-stage burn went well but the second burn cut out after a second. This caused the Astra's failsafe system to protect the satellite by jettisoning the fourth stage.

Controllers were able to stabilise the satellite's orbit but are now running out of options to rescue the spacecraft.

No rescue

"There is not a lot we can do at the moment," said a Ses-Astra spokesman.

"I am not in the business of speculation about what we may eventually do but I can say that it is very unlikely that we could get the satellite to its intended orbit.

"What is more, the Astra is in too low an orbit for any commercial use and it seems that no accessible orbit would render it operational."

One course of action that has been ruled out is any possibility of a rescue by the US space shuttle.

Since 1984, several stranded satellites have been retrieved by astronauts spacewalking from an orbiter.

But not this time. "We have not talked about this. It is not a possibility," the spokesman said.

Astra 1K was intended to replace three Astra satellites currently in orbit and serve as an orbital spare for four others.

It would have taken the Astra constellation of spacecraft to 14 and provided direct broadcast television, radio and internet access to customers all over Europe.

See also:

07 Feb 00 | Asia-Pacific
07 Apr 01 | Europe
Internet links:


The BBC is not responsible for the content of external internet sites

Links to more Science/Nature stories are at the foot of the page.


E-mail this story to a friend

Links to more Science/Nature stories

© BBC ^^ Back to top

News Front Page | Africa | Americas | Asia-Pacific | Europe | Middle East |
South Asia | UK | Business | Entertainment | Science/Nature |
Technology | Health | Talking Point | Country Profiles | In Depth |
Programmes