New Dawn satellite launch delayed

Intelsat New Dawn, the first African private sector communications satellite, did not leave the ground of French Guiana at its scheduled launch on Wednesday, 30 March 2011.

The satellite, which was set to provide telecoms services for South African companies such as Vodacom, AFSAT and Skyevine, was loaded in an Ariane 5 rocket bearing Nelson Mandela’s signature.

However, when the iconic countdown to launch reached zero the solid fuel booster rockets of the launcher didn’t fire.

Arianespace was selected as Intelsat’s partner for this launch which would have inserted two satellites into geostationary orbit: Intelsat New Dawn and Yahsat 1A.

According to Arianespace the Ariane 5 is their “heavy lifter” and the launcher used for this launch was the most powerful version in the Ariane 5 range, the Ariane 5 ECA (Cryogenic Evolution type A).

Jean-Yves Le GallJean-Yves Le Gall, CEO of Arianespace, said that the launch would be historic as it would be the heaviest payload Ariane 5 had ever sent into space, with a mass of over 8 tonnes (8,000kg) at lift-off.

Combined with other equipment accompanying the payload which is needed for the launch, the total mass the rocket needed to lift would be over 10 tonnes.

After the rockets on the Ariane 5 failed to ignite, Le Gall explained that a safety mechanism had prevented them from doing so.

During the launch sequence a number of tests are run to determine whether the boosters should be fired. Le Gall said that these safety checks weren’t passed and so the launch was aborted.

He said that they now have to determine what went wrong, but to do so they have to move the rocket off the launch pad and back to an assembling facility at the Guiana Space Centre. Le Gall added that this meant the launch would be delayed.

The launch window closed at 00h52 CAT on 31 March 2011 and transporting the rocket back to the assembly facility would take at least an hour.

Le Gall said they would try to find the reason for the abort and proceed with the launch of the satellites as soon as possible.

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New Dawn satellite launch delayed