EchoStar III, considered lost and dangerously drifting in July when it was being relocated to another orbital position, has been recovered. The satellite suffered an unknown anomaly, some 20 years after its 1997 launch, during the procedure to move it from its 87.2 degrees West position and was drifting at 0.1 degrees per day. Such unscheduled movements pose potential threats to other satellites on its route.
However, contact with the satellite was re-established on September 6th by its builders, Lockheed-Martin. EchoStar confirmed the news, and said that the satellite had now been deliberately sent to a ‘graveyard’ orbit some 350 kms higher than the normal orbital arc for geostationary satellites.
EchoStar III was no longer ‘working’ for its living and had already been operated in a fuel-saving inclined orbit position. EchoStar stressed in August that the craft was a fully depreciated, non-revenue generating asset.
“After the initial loss of contact, with a joint effort by EchoStar and Lockheed Martin, a command and control link was re-established and deorbit maneuvers performed,” said Derek de Bastos, CTO for EchoStar Satellite Services. “EchoStar III is now safely in a graveyard orbit more than 350 kilometres above the geostationary arc with its fuel and pressurants depleted, batteries drained, and systems shut down.”
It operated at one of EchoStar’s key orbital positions, 62 degrees West, for some 12 years and designed and built in what is now the ‘olden days’ of satellite building. It was designed to operate for 15 years. For example, it was built with 32 Ku-band transponders but more recent data indicates that only about 16 were still functioning.