Major glitch for new Intelsat

Intelsat’s ‘New Dawn’ satellite launched April 22 but has a major in-orbit problem. One of a pair of C-Band reflector antennas has failed to open. Intelsat has decided to pause an attempt to open the second antenna while attempts are made to dislodge the jammed device. New Dawn is intended to serve Africa.

Unfortunately, this problem is far from unique and consequently there are a number of tried and tested methods to remedy the failure. Engineers at satellite manufacturer, Orbital Sciences, say the reflector’s ejection release device functioned correctly. This releases a series of pins that hold the antenna in a safe, closed position while the satellite is launched. However, for whatever reason, the antenna has not sprung free from its closed position.

Some of the methods include shaking the satellite, using alternate firing of the craft’s small station-keeping thrusters and hoping the resulting vibration will loosen the antenna. Another is to rotate the satellite so that the trapped antenna faces the heat of the sun, and then turning the satellite away from the sun where it rapidly cools, again in the hope that the antenna will spring into its correct position.

Intelsat’s New Dawn is being tested at 23.1 deg East, ahead of its final position at 32.8 deg East. If the satellite’s antenna cannot be shifted into position there will inevitably be an insurance claim. The craft is valued at about $250m.

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