Europe's most expensive science satellite misses orbit

2019-03-06 06:07:01

By Nicola Jones A European rocket delivered close to a billion dollars worth of satellites to the wrong address on Thursday. The Ariane 5 rocket, owned by the company Arianespace, dropped the satellites more than 18,000 kilometres short of their goal, possibly because of a leak in its fuel supply. That leaves the European Space Agency’s most advanced experimental communications satellite, called Artemis, floating far away from its intended orbit. A Japanese television satellite suffered the same fate. Engineers are hopeful that the $850 million Artemis satellite should be able to use its solar panels and engines to power up into its proper orbit. “The status of the satellite is excellent,” said one representative at a press conference on Friday. Artemis is the first ESA satellite to be equipped with ion propulsion thrusters, which are relatively efficient and require less fuel. The Japanese Bsat-2B has only one traditional thruster. Artemis has suffered from a spate of bad luck. It was originally planned to launch on a Japanese H2A rocket in February 2001. But problems with the Japanese rockets forced the agency to reschedule to the Ariane 5 launch in July. Ariane 5 has had a good performance record since the first test rocket exploded in 1996 – eight had flown without any problems. Artemis is meant to conduct tests on new technologies for the European Space Agency’s Galileo project, a satellite navigation system intended to rival the US Global Positioning System. An ESA spokesman said that Artemis’ misadventure should have no impact on the launch schedule for Galileo, which should begin in 2004. Those investigating the rocket failure have already picked up some clues. They say the upper stage thrusters were not as powerful as expected and stopped their burn 80 seconds early. “It might be exhaustion of one propellant,” said one official. “A leak could be one of the possibilities.” A full investigation is expected to be complete in three weeks time. An Arianespace spokesman said the incident would not impact on its busy schedule: