We Have A Problem



 Just days after the SES-1 spacecraft arrived in Baikonur from Dulles, Intelsat lost control of Galaxy-15. Both spacecraft are based on Orbital’s Star-2 bus, which means the 4-week launch campaign’s schedule may slip.

The immediate impact for Intelsat is to transition customer to an in-orbit spare, Galaxy-12, from 123° West to 133° West. Sounds simeple, but it’s not. It is likely the engineers are concerned about future Orbital spacecraft. Galaxy-12 is also a Star-2 bus, so they won’t relax until they know what the root cause of the failure was. Same goes for all who have one in-orbit or being built. Sure, Indostar-1 had some problems, but that’s probably been fixed on subsequent spacecraft.

For SES, replacing the spacecraft co-located at 101° West, AMC-4 and AMC-2, is critical. With so much at stake, it would be prudent to delay the launch if there are doubts about future performance. They’ve got enough trouble as it is. Fix it before it flies.

But here’s the real, immediate operational challenge: how do you transition customers if you don’t control one of the spacecraft? Then, how do you get it out of the way so it doesn’t interfere with adjacent spacecraft? Take, for example, C-SPAN on AMC-11 at 131°W, operating on transponder 7, 3840V. The Fox Sports mux is on Galaxy-15 at 133°W, transponder 7, 3840V. Now we’ve got a real problem: same frequencies, and the operators on the ground can’t communicate with G15, so they can’t turn it off. Get my drift?

Both SES and Intelsat have a real problem on their hands. Something always happens in time for the NAB show in Las Vegas.