‘Zombie’ sat about to go dark?
December 10, 2010
Intelsat’s rogue satellite, Galaxy-15, might go dark towards the end of the month. Galaxy-15 has been drifting steadily – but uncontrollably – since April when a solar flare is thought to have damaged the craft’s on-board systems. However, the satellite’s collection and re-transmission function has remain firmly active and has thus been of considerable risk to satellites in or near its path of drift. One particular pass saw Galaxy-15 get to within 0.2 degrees of AMC-11, for example.
Ground-based engineers have tried hundreds of commands to ‘re-boot’ the satellite, without success. The technicians are now hoping that the satellite will shortly lose the ability to point its solar panels towards the sun, resulting in its going into a self-protection mode where the engineers will again attempt to kick-start the craft back to normal operations. The latest estimate is that this will happen between now and Dec 29. The engineers need to move very quickly because with power the satellite’s fuel propellant will quickly freeze and render the satellite useless.
However, if this procedure fails then the craft will likely be considered totally lost. It is most unlikely to fall back to Earth but instead will drift to a natural point in space but no longer a threat to near-neighbours.