“Houston we’ve had a problem…” … but Intelsat didn’t get a radio (well satellite call) from human astronauts in a spacecraft. They had the lack of a call. They had the lack of communications with the Galaxy 15 (G 15) Satellite – and could no longer control it and keep in on “station” (in a well defined area where it should be) … and it drifted out of control in the Satellite Belt (Geosynchronous Orbit belt where satellites live 22,000 some miles above the good Earth.) This satellite being down, however, could have affected Aircraft Landing (Navigation/Landing Service) to 16 airports in Northwestern Alaska. See also: http://www.insidegnss.com/node/2030. I blogged about this earlier in 2010: http://blog.marinetelecom.net/2010/08/16/zombie-satellite-turns-disruptive-in-rural-alaska-satnewscom-and-others/.
The link I’m attaching is Intelsat Returning G 15 to the fleet. It’s an interesting read. I did blog posts back in 2010 when this originally started … inlining a video showing how AMC 11 (proposed) a maneuver to avoid G 15. Galaxy 15 was out of communications and control for 8.5 months I believe the PDF said … but the story (although time frames were much longer – months rather than days) is historic in Satellite/Space Industry almost as much as Apollo 13. There weren’t human lives at stake like Apollo 13 – but millions of $ worth of communications hardware (and services) were at risk. Intelsat performed admirably … and recovered the G 15 satellite after it finally got into a condition where it lost enough battery power that it “off pointed” from Earth and powered down. It flapped on and off electrically though … and some careful communications and control procedures had to be done to finally get it to stay in the sun (solar arrays) to charge its batteries back up. (Not sure of the exact amount of control they initially had? But they were able to do this. So they had telemetry and some control.) Ultimately they got it back in full control … did full checkouts … and the end of the story is they put a still perfectly good working satellite back into service.
That says a lot about the engineers and technicians of Intelsat. Their control center must look like a ‘Houston Control’ in NASA … and it could be a dream of mine to one day ever get to see that control center. Champagne was indeed the order of the day for these guys!
And to the honorable mention of Orbital Sciences … She sure was a good ship. Still is a good ship.
Galaxy 12, 14, and 15 Fact Sheet is here: www.orbital.com%2Fnewsinfo%2Fpublications%2Fgalaxy_fact.pdf.
Alan Spicer Marine Telecom
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