On January 25, 2018, the Ariane 5 rocket took an unexpected route as those on the ground tried to figure out why they lost contact it. It was later confirmed that the wrong coordinates had been entered into the system. Two telecommunications satellites were on the flight. The rocket, however, made it into orbit. The setback is thought to be temporary, as a return to the proper location has been initiated.
The desired location is about 36,000 kilometers above the equator. Extra fuel is being used for the satellites to be returned to the proper location. The Ariane 5 has an internal navigation system and must be given specific coordinates. The incorrect azimuth set it on the wrong course by 20 degrees. The ground crew was distressed when they discovered an issue only nine and a half minutes after takeoff. The France-based Arianespace operative, Evry, stated that the complications had been resolved and the ArianeGroup was working on redirecting the satellites.
On board were the SES-14, and the Al Yah-3 satellites. They are reported to be in good shape and simply need some extra time to reach their final orbit destination. The SES-14 is from Luxembourg, and is estimated to need an additional four weeks to get into place. This four weeks is being added on to its previous six month plan. Its electric propulsion system is being used for the situation. The Yah-3 satellite from Abu-Dhabi, UAE, has a hybrid chemical and electric propulsion system. Its final orbiting destination is estimated to be reached sometime in June.
Next up for the Ariane 5 rocket is a 2019 launch of the James Webb Space Telescope. NASA is trusting that the rocket can properly deliver this eight million dollar cargo with no interruptions. NASA has been an active part of the current delay investigation to better understand the issues and make sure they are resolved before the next launch.
The company claims that it knows exactly what went wrong, and that it was making changes that were “immediately implemented.” The company also wants the public to know that at no time was anyone in danger due to the erroneous input.
Arianespace will have its chance to show the world what its got in its next launch. The next mission for the company will happen on March 6th. The plan is for a rocket, called Soyuz, to be launched from French Guiana. It will carry four internet satellites into space.