Want to stay on top of all the space news? Follow @universetoday on TwitterWith all the satellites used by scientists to gather information on space and distant planets we forget that satellites can also be used for communication as well. The Eutelsat w3 was one of a series of 27 geostationary satellites owned by Eutelsat. The company provide cable, telephone, and internet services to an area covering Europe, India, Africa and the Middle East effectively covering two thirds. Eutelsat is a French owned company.
The satellites work in geostationary orbit helping to serve as the backbone for telecommunications around the globe. It is the third largest satellite system on the planet. Each satellite in the 27 satellite network covers a specific area of the globe. The Eutelsat w3 was one of the types of satellites used and was actually two different satellites Eutelsat w3a and Eutelsat w3b. However, one of the satellites, the wB model failed to successfully launch due to a propellant leak.
The loss of the 5 ton space craft fortunately did not result in major losses for Eutelsat. The Eutelsat w3 was based off of the Thales Spacebus 4000 C3 satellite platform with a design life of 15 years. Normally, a satellite when launched would reach the ideal orbital velocity to stay in orbit. It would only be after gradual decay of the satellites orbit over time that it would fall back to earth. The loss of one of the Eutelsat w3 satellites proved to be an anomaly in a history of mostly successful satellite launches for Eutelsat.
We’ve also recorded an episode of Astronomy Cast all about the planet Earth. Listen here, Episode 51: Earth.