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Orbit glitch consumes propellant on new satellite
Posted: Sun, May 16, 2004, 12:52 PM ET (1652 GMT)
Boeing 601 illustration (BSS) A Japanese communications satellite launched last month has reached its final orbit but with far less propellant onboard than planned, apparently because of an unforeseen aspect of its transfer orbit. Space News reported late Friday that the Superbird 6 satellite, launched on an Atlas 2AS in mid-April, has reached its planned position in geosynchronous orbit but used far more propellant than planned. According to the report, the Atlas placed the spacecraft into the planned transfer orbit, but that orbit failed to properly take into account the gravitational effects of the Moon and Earth. As a result, the spacecraft's perigee dropped perilously low, from 200 to 100 kilometers, forcing the spacecraft to use additional propellant to raise its orbit. The spacecraft, a Boeing 601, is also suffering from a problem with its solar arrays that may also be linked to the low perigee passage. Space News reported that the spacecraft, also known as Superbird A2 by its owner, Space Communications Corporation, will not enter commercial service in July from its position at 158 degrees east, as originally planned.
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