Orbcomm's OG2 Satellite Deorbits

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Orbcomm declared its OG2 prototype spacecraft a total loss Oct. 11 after the second-generation communications satellite that flew as a secondary payload on SpaceX's first cargo mission to the International Space Station (ISS) was dropped into a lower orbit than intended.

The New Jersey-based satellite messaging services provider said it had filed a claim against an insurance policy that covered the spacecraft for up $10 million, which Orbcomm said would largely offset the expected cost of the satellite and its launch.

“We appreciate the complexity and work that SpaceX put into this launch,” Orbcomm CEO Marc Eisenberg said in an Oct. 11 statement. “SpaceX has been a supportive partner, and we are highly confident in their team and technology.”

An anomaly that crippled one of the SpaceX Falcon 9 Merlin 1C engines during the Oct. 7 launch did nothing to disrupt the rocket's primary mission of lofting SpaceX's Dragon cargo vessel to the ISS. But Orbcomm says it was responsible for the the total loss of the OG2 satellite, which was to expected to fly before SpaceX launches the full constellation of 18 second-generation Orbcomm spacecraft on Falcon 9 vehicles over the next two years.

Orbcomm Oct. 11 that telemetry and command capability had been established with OG2 and several critical system verifications were performed before it reentered the atmosphere Oct. 10. The solar array and communications payload antenna deployed and engineers verified the performance of various components of both the OG2 satellite bus and the communications payload.

“The OG2 satellite bus systems including power, attitude control, thermal and data handling were also tested to verify proper operation,” Orbcomm said. “The unique communications payload, which incorporates a highly reprogrammable software radio with common hardware for both gateway and subscriber messaging, also functioned as expected.”

Orbcomm says the data will allow it to focus on completing and launching the OG2 satellites as the primary mission payloads on two planned Falcon 9 launches, the first in mid-2013 and the second in 2014, directly into their operational orbit.

“Had Orbcomm been the primary payload on this mission, as planned for the upcoming launches, we believe the OG2 prototype would have reached the desired orbit,” the company said.

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