WASHINGTON — The Northrop Grumman-built Eutelsat 5 West B satellite launched Oct. 9 has been unable to activate one of its two solar arrays, a problem which, if not resolved, will likely render the satellite a total loss. It is insured for 173 million euros ($192.4 million).
Industry officials said the satellite would be useless to owner Eutelsat with only one functioning solar array — the other has been deployed and is working — as it would not have sufficient power to operate the spacecraft and generate revenue.
One industry official said the defective solar array has deployed but is not working.
Paris-based Eutelsat said the satellite, launched in a stack with Northrop’s Mission Extension Vehicle-1 (MEV-1) satellite life-extension vehicle aboard an International Launch Services (ILS) Proton rocket, was on its way to its operating position at 5 degrees West when the incident occurred.
Eutelsat 5 West B uses Northrop’s GEOStar-2 platform and carries an Airbus Defence and Space-built payload, and was scheduled to replace the Eutelsat 5 West A spacecraft, which Eutelsat said generated 30 million euros for the 12 months ending June 30, 2019.
In the event of a total loss, the revenue hit to Eutelsat will be more than the loss of its 35 active Ku-band transponders.
The satellite also carries a global navigation satellite system overlay payload under a contract with the European Commission’s European GNSS Agency, GSA. That contract is valued at 102 million euros over 18 years.
A total loss would be the third large hit this year for space insurance underwriters. The United Arab Emirates’s Falcon Eye 1 optical reconnaissance satellite, insured for 369 million euros ($410 million), was lost in a July failure of the European Vega rocket.
The Chinasat 18 telecommunications satellite, launched in August after what appeared to be a successful separation from its Long March carrier rocket, suffered an apparent power failure after separation from its Long March rocket insured for $250 million.