SES-owned satellite AMC-9, which suffered a “major anomaly” on Saturday morning is probably lost, according to sources at SES.
While not yet confirmed as being totally lost, the short-term prognosis does not look good. A previous ‘Zombie’ satellite was Galaxy-15 which went adrift back in April 2010, and slowly started drifting into the orbital space of adjacent satellites from its designated orbital slot. These other satellites had to be moved out of its path. But near-miraculously, and helped by brilliant engineering by the satellite’s owners (Intelsat) the acknowledged rogue satellite was not only recovered during December 2010 when the craft, in effect, rebooted itself.
Subsequently, Galaxy-15 was given a new mission at 133 degrees West, and where it continues to work properly.
However, AMC-9 is far from a ‘zombie’ satellite because the satellite is no longer active. In other words, while the SES satellite will continue to slowly drift – and might be a threat to other satellites over time – it will not collect their signals and attempt to re-transmit their transmissions.
While SES has reported the potential loss from AMC-9’s revenue stream and its impact on this year’s income plan, the end-result might not be catastrophic.
At the moment it is early days. More information should emerge as the technicians and engineers get a better idea as to what is happening to the satellite in orbit and how the satellite’s drift is progressing. SES stresses that all is far from lost, and they remain hopeful that connectivity – in terms of direct control – might be re-established.
Either way, the 2010 experience which saw the industry working together to avoid in-orbit problems might be put to good use again.