Russians find ‘lost’ satellite
September 13, 2011
By Chris Forrrester
Russia’s giant Express-AM4 satellite, placed into a near-useless orbit on August 18th, has been found, and ground-controllers are in contact with the craft. They report that the satellite has partially deployed its solar arrays and is in a safe stand-by mode awaiting further instructions.
Astrium, which built Express-AM4, say that the craft is so far away from its correct orbit that salvage is not an option.
Chief Executive Evert Dudok said that because of the problem orbit in which Express-AM4 found itself following a badly off-target launch aboard a Proton-Breeze M rocket, it took ground teams about a week to determine the satellite’s location. After a week or so, we had data accurate enough to start communicating with the satellite. It has power, it has heat, and it can communicate. But from our perspective it is in a lost orbit.”
Dudok said the satellite’s ownership has formally been transferred to Russia’s Satellite Communications Company (RSCC) which will decide its next step, and probably to place the craft into a high graveyard orbit. The craft was insured for about $300 million.