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The Galaxy 15 Zombie Satellite - 2010.05.04

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Published on May 3, 2010

The Galaxy 15 satellite has become a zombie and will soon eat the brains of AMC-11 on your Spacevidcast Daily for May 4th, 2010.On April 5th, 2010 Intelsat lost control of the Orbital Sciences built Galaxy 15 satellite and has been unable to regain it's correct position in orbit. Losing communication with a multi-million dollar satellite is generally not that great of a thing to have happen, but in this case it is even worse. The bird itself is floating around with its transponders still active. Now for the really fun part: the satellite is moving out of its assigned orbital slot and is about to enter in to range of another satellite: AMC-11.Typically one would be worried of an impact event which then causes tons of space debris, but in this case the problem will be interference. Since both satellites will be broadcasting at the same time in the same orbital slot, the malfunctioning Galaxy 15 could end up knocking out communications of AMC-11 when it gets too close. Right now best estimates put that date at May 23rd. Then we'll have TWO decommissioned satellites.But the fun doesn't end there! If ground controllers can't regain control of Galaxy 15, and it keeps drifting, eventually it will exit the assigned orbital slot for AMC-11 some time around June 7th, and could then move on to take out the next satellite in its way. And so forth and so on until they can either shut it down or it loses its Earth pointing capability which would then cause the solor arrays to lose lock with the sun, and a couple of hours later the batteries would drain and the unit would shut down on its own.Yesterday Intelsat was going to try one last hail mary to see if they can't get control of the satellite. Well, less control and more of an emergency shutdown command. This was a powerful command sent for around 30 minutes to try and get Galaxy 15 to turn off its transponders and go dark so it won't wreak havoc on the satellite constellation. No word yet on if this attempt worked or not.Galaxy 15 has been replaced by Galaxy 12 which was already located at another orbital location and moved in to the proper orbital slot for the old Galaxy 15. Since most of the transponders on Galaxy 15 match that of Galaxy 12, that was a fairly good workaround, although Galaxy 12 is missing L-Band units that were available on the other satellite.If the satellite is not shut down, then around July 13th it should reach the vicinity of Galaxy 13, on July 30th it will reach Galaxy 14 and in Mid August it will reach Galaxy 18. Eventually it is expected to reach the satellite wasteland at 105 degrees west where satellites go to die. There are two parking lots for satellites, one at 105 degrees west and one at 75 degrees east. Current estimates put more than 160 zombiesats parked at these two locations. This will be the first Orbital Sciences built satellite to get zombified.

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