The much-delayed maiden flight of the first of Motorola's Iridium mobile communications-satellites aboard a McDonnell Douglas (MDC) Delta 2 booster faces a further hold-up pending the investigation into the loss of a Delta 2, 13s after launch from Cape Canaveral, Florida, on 17 January.

MDC had planned seven Iridium launches of 33 satellites this year, plus six for other customers, including the first launch of the Globalstar system, which will compete with the Iridium. The original launch date for the Iridium of late December 1996 was delayed because of technical and weather problems.

A Navstar Block 2A global-positioning-system (GPS) satellite was lost in the explosion of the booster just after launch, apparently after a fault developed which triggered the automatic abort system. It was the first Delta failure since May 1986 and the first total failure of the Delta 2 model.

There will be no disruption to GPS services as the lost craft was a replacement for an older satellite, which is still in orbit and one of 26 spacecraft which are in an operational constellation.



Source: Flight International