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Bad News on Phase 3D Launch

TO:  All AMSAT-NA Members and everyone interested in Amateur Radio
satellites worldwide
From:  Bill Tynan W3XO President AMSAT-NA
Subject: Bad News on Phase 3D Launch

By now many of you have heard the bad news that Phase 3D will not fly on
Ariane 503,

This is, obviously very disappointing news.  We must, however, persevere
and continues our present course to get the satellite tested and ready
for a launch.  And we pledge to do so.

I  think the situation is best summarized by the words sent this morning
by Dr. Karl Meinzer DJ4ZC the Phase 3D Project Leader.

But first, a few words of explanation may be in order.

1.  Arianespace is a commercial company set up to sell Ariane launches.

2.  ESA is the European Space Agency, much like the U.S. NASA, but a
multinational organization.

3.  W1 is a commercial satellite built in Europe, which was damaged in a
fire a few months ago.  Reports have said that it has been refurbished
and made ready for flight.

4.  Although not mentioned in Karl's note, previous information has
referred to CNES.  CNES is the French equivalent of NASA.  They have
been designated by ESA as the technical agency in charge of developing
the Ariane 5 launch vehicle.

An official AMSAT News Service (ANS) bulletin will be issued shortly on
the unfortunate news regarding the Phase 3D launch situation.


Bill Tynan W3XO

DJ4ZC's statement follows:


First I would like to thank all of you who sent me notes of sympathy and

encouragement following the recent news from ESA..

Since that information was released, I have spoken with many people and
the situation has become a bit clearer.

First let me give a short rundown of events to put things into

1. Before the launch of AR 502, ESA terminated our launch-contract based
the fact that we "were not ready in time for the launch". This of course
due to the specification change which was imposed on us shortly before
launch following the AR 501 failure. We always maintained that the
termination of the contract was on somewhat shaky legal grounds because
the unacceptable short notice we were given for the spec.-chance. ESA
maintained that this was a risk we had to accept because the flight was

2. As a consequence of the AR 501 failure, a third test-flight ( AR 503
) had
become necessary. Because there was an uncovered hole of about $US 40,
000,000. in
the AR 5 development budget, ESA turned to Arianespace to find a paying
customer for this flight and partly delegated the responsibility for the

payloads to Arianespace. For the case that such a customer could not be
the countries developing ARIANE 5 would have had to pay this missing

3. In January we accepted the termination of the contract and with
financial provisions without further squabbles after ESA agreed to

 a. Carry us as a backup on AR 503 if no paying customer could be

b. ESA would use "best efforts" to place us elsewhere if a flight on
    AR 503 did not become available due to a paying customer.

4. While we always maintained that it would be unlikely that Arianespace

would find a paying customer (and in fact we were proved right by the
and thus we would be flying on AR 503, ESA always assumed that
would come up with a paying customer. Thus ESA unfortunately did not
the provisions of 3.a. in an active way. In particular they failed to
the necessary studies to include us on AR 503 if the option 3.a. would
to be exercised rather late in the game.

5. In the ESA Programme Board meeting last week, Arianespace surprised
everybody by stating that they (the company Arianespace) would cover the

missing $US 40,000,000 in return for having the freedom to decide the
composition of the lower payload. So in fact Arianespace had become the
"paying customer" for this slot, and we were off.


Initially it was not clear why Arianespace would take this step. But
having spoken with many people, eventually the following picture

First of all, it is clearly in the interest of Arianespace to get AR 503
quickly into orbit as possible. Assuming that ultimately they want to
one AR 5 per month, each month of delay will cost them in the order of
$US 200,000,000 of lost revenue. This is all the more true since
recently there has
been some discussion about the performance of the AR 5 with regard to
market demands for launchers. So Arianespace may have some fears that
they may
 loose the competitive edge if the AR 5 is further delayed and their
customers may
wander off to other launch-suppliers.

But also with AR 503 itself Arianespace looked into optimizing the
cost/profit ratio. To this end Arianespace has been negotiating with the

insurance about the damaged W1. If the W1 can be refurbished in time for
AR 503 launch, they would launch it and then sell the communication
themselves. I had earlier indications of this, but I did not take it
seriously because I assumed that Arianespace would stay away from this
in view of the resulting conflict of interest with their customers - it
turned out that I misjudged this. So in a way we have become the first
of this conflict of interest. But in the light of this gamble, it is now

doubtful that Arianespace would have considered us as backup even if ESA

would have done their homework. Clearly they want to retain the option
switching the refurbished W1 against the W1-dummy to the last second
the launch. We simply could not compete with this by our offer of $US
and some moral justification of not flying ballast.

So we wept some, and that done - let us now look forward:

1. For ESA the launcher development has come to an end, and this phasing
is also reflected in the size of their staff and their commitments. So
frankly, I do not expect very much from them in the future in spite of
above commitment 3.b.

2. With Arianespace we have to start to deal in serious for a launch. In
initial contact they stated that they would launch us for $US 10,000,000

Clearly for us this is out of reach, but I hope that, once Arianespace
has a
better understanding of our environment and the constraints we work
there will be room for negotiation.

3. I expect that we will get some significant help from our government,
[German] given that they saved quite some money, and that this saving
occurred essentially at our expense.

Also all players agree that we have to finish the work on the spacecraft

including the tests as soon as possible to be ready once the opportunity

arises for a launch. It is clear that it will not be this year - but I
that the chances are not bad that we will find something next year on AR
This is all the more true given the mismatch of payloads with AR 5

But also in parallel we should and will pursue other launch options.
in the short term we have a problem, in the medium term I am reasonably
optimistic. So keep your fingers crossed - I will inform you by this
path on
the progress we make in securing a launch.

 Dr. Karl Meinzer, DJ4ZC
 President AMSAT-DLe.V.