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European satellite launches face delay at three sites

Copenhagen, Denmark: Three European earth observation missions that had been scheduled for launch this summer are now facing delays of undetermined length because of unrelated issues at three different launch sites, according to Volker Liebig, Earth observation Director, European Space Agency (ESA). Liebig was addressing the ‘GMES in Action’ conference in Copenhagen, Denmark.

Delay in Swarm mission
The latest delay is to the ESA’s Swarm mission to study Earth’s magnetic field. The three Swarm satellites were scheduled for launch in June aboard a Russian Rockot vehicle from the Plesetsk Cosmodrome in northern Russia.

Rockot, a converted SS-19 ballistic missile, has been grounded since February 2011 when its Breeze upper stage failed to place the Russian government’s GEO-IK2 geodesy satellite into its intended orbit. For reasons that have not been disclosed, the investigation into that failure took more than a year to complete.

Russia’s Khrunichev Space Center of Moscow announced that the Rockot would return to flight in early July with the launch of two Russian satellites, the Gonets-M and Mir. A Rockot launch of another Russian government payload will follow that, and only then will Swarm be launched.

Delay in Metop-B satellite launch
Europe’s Metop-B polar-orbiting meteorological satellite, meanwhile, is awaiting the resolution of a dispute between Russia and Kazakhstan over rocket-stage drop zones for launches from the Russian-run Baikonur Cosmodrome, which is in Kazakhstan.

The late-May launch aboard a Russian Soyuz rocket has been indefinitely postponed as Russia and Kazakhstan negotiate a settlement.

Delay in MSG-3 satellite launch
Another European weather satellite, the geostationary-orbiting MSG-3, is awaiting the next flight of Europe’s Ariane 5 heavy-lift rocket. The launch had been scheduled for late May, but was postponed to give manufacturers of MSG-3’s co-passenger on the launch — the EchoStar 17 Ka-band broadband satellite — time to verify a suspect component.

Metop-B and MSG-3 are both owned by Europe’s Eumetsat meteorological satellite organisation of Darmstadt, Germany.

Source: Space News