Al Yah-3 satellite in orbit after contact 'lost' with rocket during launch

Arianespace has confirmed early on Friday that the two satellites — European-owned SES-14 and UAE’s Al Yah-3 — launched on an Arian 5 rocket are now on orbit and continuing their missions following an initial loss of contact with the heavy-lift launch vehicle.

The rocket’s liftoff took place on January 25, 2018, at 7.20 pm from French Guiana (2.20am UAE time on Friday, January 26, 2018).

The loss of contact was reported at about the 9th minute into the flight.

“A few seconds after ignition of the upper stage, the second tracking station located in Natal, Brazil, did not acquire the launcher telemetry. This lack of telemetry lasted throughout the rest of powered flight,” Arianespace said in a statement early on Friday. 

Satellite on 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.” 

Arianespace’s chief executive reported that contact was lost with the Ariane 5 rocket.

The “anomaly” was detected a few seconds after ignition of the rocket’s upper stage.

Ariane 5, one of the world’s most reliable satellite launchers, hasn’t recorded a failure since 2002.

Stephane Israel, chief executive of Arianespace, the European consortium behind the Ariane launchers, reported the ‘anomaly’ during the mission designated Flight VA241. 


“Ladies and gentlemen, I come to give you some information because we have had an anomaly on this launch. Indeed, we lost contact with the launcher a few seconds after ignition of the upper stage.”

“But as I said, we lost contact. Up to now, our customers do not have contact with the satellite. We need now some time to know if they have been separated, and where they are exactly, to better analyze the consequences of this anomaly.”

“I want to present my deepest excuses to our customers, who have entrusted us one more time. We know that there is no launch with no risk. We know that launch is always difficult, and tonight Ariane 5 has had an anomaly, so let’s take time now to better understand the situation of the satellites.”

“Arianespace, in full transparency, will come back to you to provide you with some more information as soon as we have them. I apologize on behalf of Arianespace.”

Arianespace has not lost an Ariane 5 rocket since 2002.

The two satellites are now reported to be on their Geostationary Transfer Orbit (GTO).

The Ariane 5 rocket was launched from the European Space Centre in Kourou, French Guiana at about 2.20am UAE time on Friday.

Here’s an illustration of the sequence of double launch following what initially was a “flawless” flight early Friday. 

Ariane 5 is one of the world’s best-performing satellite launchers. Between April 2003 and December 2017, it has flown 82 consecutive missions without failure. 

Part of a joint venture between Yahsat — owned by Mubadala Investment Company — and Orbital ATK, Al Yah 3 was launched from Kourou, French Guiana.

The satellite will provide broadband services to 60 per cent of Africa’s population and to more than 95 per cent of Brazil’s population, highlighting the significance of Al Yah 3.

First hybrid propulsion satellite

UAE’s Al Yah 3 is a special spacecraft.

The manufacture of Al Yah 3, the first hybrid electric propulsion GEOStar-3 satellite completed by Orbital ATK, involved a project management team comprising Emirati engineers who have been based at Orbital ATK’s satellite manufacturing facility in Virginia, US.

Yahsat has already launched two satellites — Al Yah 1 in 2011 and Al Yah 2 in 2012 — with both satellites providing broadband and communication services to 140 countries in the Middle East, Africa, and Europe, among others.

Using Orbital’s powerful GEOStar-3 satellite platform, Al Yah 3 delivers over 53 high-power Ka-Band user beams to provide high-speed data services for end-user applications as well as IP backhaul for telecommunications service providers.


Geostationary Earth Orbit  

A geostationary equatorial orbit (GEO) is a circular geosynchronous orbit in the plane of the Earth’s equator with a radius of approximately 42,164 km (measured from the center of the Earth). A satellite in such an orbit is at an altitude of approximately 35,786 km (22,236 mi) above mean sea level.

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