The Japanese DSN-1 (Superbird 8) defence communications spacecraft has been seriously damaged during its air transportation from manufacturer Mitsibushi Electric Corp (MELCO), in Japan, to the Arianespace launch site in Kourou, French Guiana.

It is reported that a protective tarpaulin sheet covering the satellite container apparently blocked valves/vents used to equalise the container’s internal air pressure. This happened as it descended into thicker atmosphere when landing in French Guiana, causing the communications antennas to be seriously damaged by the pressurisation differential.

The accident led it to miss its planned Ariane 5 ECA launch in July and it will have to wait at least at least a year while repairs are made.

Arianespace had previously paired the DSN-1 (Superbird 8) spacecraft with GSAT 18 for its planned Ariane 5 ECA flight in July. GSAT 18 has subsequently been paired with NBN 1B for its flight, which will now take place in October.