The launch of Intelsat’s New Dawn satellite – scheduled for last night at 11:45pm, on an Ariane5 rocket from French Guiana – was aborted.
Intelsat says the launch has been postponed, due to the launch sequence being shut down automatically.
Launch company Arianespace is reviewing the data and will make another attempt at a later stage. A new date for the launch has not yet been set.
New Dawn is the first African private sector communications satellite.
The satellite features a payload optimised to deliver wireless backhaul, broadband and television programming to the continent.
It will be operated and marketed as part of the global Intelsat fleet. Jon Osler, MD of Africa sales at Intelsat, says the life expectancy of the satellite is 17 years.
“The New Dawn satellite and its 28 C-band and 24 Ku-band 36MHz transponder units are designed specifically to supply critical communications infrastructure for African customers,” says Intelsat.
It will operate from a geostationary orbital slot at 32.8 degrees east and is expected to be placed into service in the second quarter of this year.
Osler says satellite is the only service that bridges the entire African continent.
“Africa has been one of the fastest-growing regions for fixed satellite services in recent years, fuelled by demand for critical infrastructure from communications providers and television programmers. Wireless telecom operators, broadband service providers, corporate network service providers and direct-to-home television operators have experienced growth, along with the economic development of the region,” says Intelsat.
It adds that the venture was established to provide solutions for these African communication needs and is expected to deliver new capacity for voice, wireless backhaul, Internet and media applications.
Osler also says there are benefits of satellite cellular extension, like full network deployment for complete market coverage; flexibility to redistribute and balance network traffic periodically or in real-time; and improved management of backbone infrastructure, capital expenditure and operating costs.
“Satellite offers a ubiquitous service over all of Africa,” he adds. He says satellite offers the broadest connectivity options and applications to bridge the “access demand” in Africa.
The Department of Science and Technology (DST) welcomed the satellite.
“The launch of the New Dawn will complement the DST space programme and, in time, we will seek partnerships with the private sector in the area of satellite communication, Earth observation and in international space-related activities,” says science and technology minister Naledi Pandor.
CEO of the South African National Space Agency (Sansa) Sandile Malinga said the satellite highlights the vast possibilities in store for the South African commercial space industry.
Sansa Space Operations, formerly known as the Satellite Applications Centre, together with Australia and the US, are part of a network of ground stations offering support to the mission.
“Sansa has already offered network checkout/dress rehearsal services to this mission, and will continue with transfer orbit support services and in-orbit testing, for approximately two weeks after the launch,” says the department.
New Dawn was announced in December 2008. It is a joint venture between Intelsat and local investment company Convergence Partners.
The US$250 million project is funded approximately 15% with equity and 85% with debt. African institutions are providing about 90% of the total financing and Intelsat will contribute the balance.
The consortium of lenders providing the debt includes Nedbank, the Industrial Development Corporation of SA and the African Development Bank. The equity is provided by Intelsat (74.9%) and the Convergence Partners-led group (25.1%), according to Intelsat.