AT&T DirecTV’s satellite woes

The Spaceway-1 satellite could explode putting other spacecraft in its vicinity at risk

MUMBAI: What happens when a DTH satellite turns rogue?

Well, it has to be sent to the graveyard or junk orbit, which is 300 km above the geostationary orbit (35,786 km above the earth). That’s exactly what the AT&T-owned direct to home service provider DirecTV is dealing with. One of its satellites Spaceway-1 - located at 138.4 degrees west and built by Boeing -  has developed a malfunction in its batteries, which has put it in danger of exploding.

The Boeing 702HP model spacecraft was functional from 2005 and had been providing high-definition TV services to US subscribers of DirecTV. It was later demoted to the status of a backup satellite. (Normally communications satellite have a life span of 14-16 years.)

AT&T has now written to the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) seeking permission to allow it along with Boeing and Intelsat to deorbit and decommission the satellite between now and 25 February when the satellite would go into earth’s shadow or eclipse.

It has told the FCC  that “Spaceway-1 suffered a major anomaly in December that resulted in significant thermal damage to its batteries.”

The harm to the batteries is  grievous enough  to not support the pressure that would come on them were they to be switched on during the eclipse phase (the period when it enters the earth’s shadow and does not receive sunlight to charge its solar panels; currently the satellite is in the sunlight phase). However, AT&T confesses it cannot avoid switching on the batteries when it enters the eclipse phase as the satellite will not have enough power to be totally deorbited and decommissioned then. And if they are turned on there is a possibility of an explosion, which could possibly damage other satellites in the vicinity.

AT&T has also informed the FCC that just raising the satellite to the graveyard orbit will take 21 days leaving it with just 7 days to vent out 73 kg of its propellant fuel which is nigh impossible. (For a satellite to be decommissioned it needs to discharge its fuel and normally, it takes two to three months for the task when the spacecraft reaches the end of its life.) Within the time period available to Spaceway-1 only a nominal portion of the fuel will have been removed. Hence, it has sought the FCC’s permission to waive off the complete propellant fuel venting requirement. “Authorising DirectTV’s emergency de-orbit operations will facilitate disposal of Spaceway-1 as safely as possible,” AT&T has pleaded.

Obviously, AT&T and DirecTV are racing against a deadline. And the clock is ticking away. Hopefully, the Spaceway-1 will find its way to its final resting place in time.

Latest Reads
Intelsat Commercial Aviation signs an agreement with Nelco to provide in-flight connectivity

Intelsat, the operator of integrated satellite and terrestrial networks and provider of inflight connectivity (IFC), announced the beginning of Intelsat’s inflight connectivity services in Indian skies through an agreement with satellite communication service provider Nelco.

Satellites Satellite Operators
Kacific Broadband Satellite appoints Vishaal Mathur as vice president of sales for south asia region

Satellite operator Kacific Broadband Satellite International has appointed Vishaal Mathur as vice president of sales for the South Asia region.

Satellites Satellite Operators
“India is the strongest media market in APAC”: Intelsat’s Bill O’Hara & Terry Bleakley

Bill O’Hara and Terry Bleakley make for an odd couple – they are as different as chalk and cheese. O’Hara is a true blood American, while Bleakley is from that distant land called New Zealand, and is a Kiwi. But they have one thing in common between them: the company they work for – global...

Satellites Satellite Operators
Satellite & media industry veteran Vishaal Mathur launches consultancy firm

After spending 17 years with leading satellite operators MEASAT (Astro group) in Malaysia and SES in Singapore, Vishaal Mathur has decided to start his own independent consultancy called Vishaal Mathur and Associates.

Satellites Satellite Launches
Measat Satellite Systems elevates G Selvaraj as CCO & J Rao becomes AVP of network engineering & operations

Measat Satellite Systems on Friday has elevated Ganendra Selvaraj and Jeevan Rao to new roles. Selvaraj has been named the chief commercial officer (CCO) and Rao has been appointed as the associate vice president (AVP) of network engineering & operations.

Satellites Satellite Operators
PSLV C-51 lifts off with Brazil’s first indigenously made satellite

The Indian Space Research Organization (ISRO) on Sunday launched Brazil’s first indigenously made satellite, Amazonia-1, onboard its old warhorse PSLV from Satish Dhawan Space Centre in Sriharikota, Andhra Pradesh. It is also ISRO's first space mission of 2021.

Satellites Satellite Launches
ISRO opens doors to two space start-ups for testing satellites

The Indian Space Research Organization (ISRO) has opened its doors to two Indian start-ups to test their satellites at the UR Rao Satellite Centre in Bengaluru.

Satellites Satellite Launches
India all set to launch Brazil’s first indigenously made satellite

New Delhi: India is all set to launch Brazil’s first indigenously made satellite- Amazonia-1 onboard its old warhorse PSLV from Satish Dhawan Space Centre in Sriharikota, Andhra Pradesh later this month. “The New Space India Ltd (NSIL), a newly formed public sector undertaking under the Department...

Satellites Satellite Operators
AsiaSat taps into HERMES Live’s streaming service

Satellite solutions provider Asia Satellite Telecommunications Company (AsiaSat) has signed up Hong Kong-based live-streaming platform HERMES Live as its technology partner. Under the deal, HERMES Live will provide seamless live streaming service to AsiaSat customers across the world.

Satellites Satellite Operators