Last-second Scrub Delays Ariane 5 Launch of Intelsat-37e and Bsat-4a Satellites

Ariane 5's Vulcain 2 cryogenic liquid engine
The Ariane 5's Vulcain 2 cryogenic liquid engine ignited Sept. 5, but shut down after a computer-detected abnormal condition. (Image credit: Arianespace video capture by Alec Hutchinson)

WASHINGTON — A last-second abort halted an Ariane 5 launch of two telecommunications satellites Tuesday evening.

The abort occurred at 5:51 p.m. Eastern just after the Ariane 5's cryogenic main engine ignited but before the rocket's two solid-fueled strap-on boosters were to ignite about 7 seconds later. Had the side boosters fired, the rocket would have been propelled upward since solid fuel keeps burning once ignited. 

Arianespace said the rocket and its two-satellite payload, Intelsat-37e and Bsat-4a, were safe following the aborted launch. The rocket will be transferred back to its assembly building at the French Guiana spaceport to undergo preparations for a second launch attempt while Arianespace analyzes what caused Tuesday's abort.

In a brief webcast following the launch scrub, Arianespace said the mission would be rescheduled "very soon," but did not give a timeframe. 

Intelsat-37e is the third and final satellite launch this year for Luxembourg- and Washington-based fleet operator Intelsat. The Boeing-built satellite is part of the company's high-throughput "EpicNG" series, and carries 45 Gbps of capacity across C-, Ku- and Ka-band payloads. 

Bsat-4a is a broadcast satellite for Japanese satellite operator Broadcasting Satellite System Corporation (B-SAT). Space Systems Loral built the satellite with 24 Ku-band transponders meant to support increasingly higher quality video broadcasts in Japan including 4K ultra-HD and, notably, 8K — a bandwidth intensive broadcast that offers 16 times the resolution of high definition.

This story was provided by SpaceNews, dedicated to covering all aspects of the space industry.

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Senior Analyst, Quilty Analytics

Caleb Henry is a senior analyst for Quilty Analytics and a former staff writer for the space industry publication SpaceNews. From 2016 to 2020, Caleb covered the global satellite industry for SpaceNews, chronicling everything from launches, spacecraft manufacturing and ground infrastructure. Caleb's work has also appeared in NewSpace Global and Access Intelligence. He earned a bachelor's degree in political science with a minor in astronomy from Grove City College.