Thursday, December 30, 2010

Inactive 'Zombie' satellite comes to life

The Galaxy 15 satellite is seen before its 2005 launch to geostationary orbit nearly 36,000 kilometers over the Earth's equator. 

Credit: Orbital Sciences

The Galaxy 15 communications satellite lost contact with its flight control center in April. But in an unexpected twist, the stricken satellite's telecommunications broadcast package remained in operation. 

With Intelsat operators unable to control the solar-powered satellite, Galaxy 15 continued to transmit signals, posing a risk of interfering with the signals of neighbouring satellites

In the months that followed, Intelsat worked closely with the operators of other broadcast satellites to ensure that their communications services – which included television broadcasts – would not be affected when Galaxy 15 drifted by. But that drama in space has ended.

On Dec. 23, the battery on Galaxy 15 — which relied on solar panels pointed at the sun to generate power — became completely drained, Intelsat officials said. Once that happened, the satellite reset itself as designed and began accepting commands from Intelsat's control centre.

"We have placed Galaxy 15 in safe mode, and at this time, we are pleased to report it no longer poses any threat of satellite interference to either neighboring satellites or customer services," Intelsat officials announced.

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