Crane Accident Damages Malaysian Satellite
MEASAT-3a is based on Orbital's STAR-2 spacecraft platform.
Credit: MEASAT.

WASHINGTON - The scheduled Aug. 21 launch of Malaysia's MEASAT 3a telecommunications satellite aboard a Land Launch rocket has been postponed indefinitely after the spacecraft was damaged at the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan, according to the satellite builder and launch services provider.

MEASAT 3a, owned by Measat Satellite Systems, suffered damage after being hit by an overhead crane at a Baikonur processing facility, according to a statement issued Aug. 13 by the satellite's builder, Orbital Sciences Corp. of Dulles, Va. The accident occurred over the weekend, Orbital said.

Engineers from Orbital and Measat are assessing the damage, which may require that the spacecraft be transported back to Orbital's satellite manufacturing facility for repairs, the press release said. The damage assessment is expected to take several weeks, after which Orbital and its customer can try to reschedule the launch, the press release said.

"We are working closely with our customer to do all that we can to assess the situation and recommend a course of action that will put the mission back on track in as little time as possible," Christopher Richmond, senior vice president and head of Orbital Commercial Communications satellite programs, said in a prepared statement.

Land Launch operates from Baikonur using a close variant of the Russian-Ukrainian Zenit 3SL rocket that Sea Launch uses to loft satellites from a floating platform near the equator in the Pacific Ocean.

Paula Korn, a spokeswoman for Sea Launch, which markets and handles contracting arrangements for the Land Launch vehicle, said the accident occurred after the satellite had been mated with the rocket's Block DM SLB upper stage. She said an investigation of what caused the accident is under way.

A new launch date for MEASAT 3a will depend on how long it takes Orbital to assess and repair the damage, Korn said. "It's definitely not going in August - I can tell you that," she said.