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Optus B1 Problem Affects Sky Satellite Service

Sky satellite subscribers in New Zealand and Australia lost service when the Optus B1 suffered an outage at 6:52 p.m. NZST (0652 UTC) on March 30; service was restored the following morning.

Optus said the outage was caused during a routine station-keeping maneuver and services on Optus B1 failed due to loss of pointing control of the satellite. Optus engineers were able to maintain contact with the satellite through the outage and were able to recover the satellite's pointing and restore services between 7:00 and 7:30 a.m.

Optus said the probable cause of the outage was a fuel feed anomaly to one of the thrusters on the satellite.

Sky New Zealand said "the solar eclipse that occurred around midnight has interfered with and set back the restoration of Sky's digital satellite service. The eclipse blocked sunlight to the solar cells on the satellite requiring the cells to be recharged again after the eclipse and before the process of realigning the signal with earth could continue."

Sky Television's CEO John Fellet said, "Our priority has been to get the service up and running. SKY and Optus' staff have worked through the night to re-power the satellite and restore a signal to SKY. It's a delicate process and it's still continuing."

Sat-Index.com, in its failures section, describes the Optus B1 failure and notes that Optus B1 lost its primary Satellite Control Processor on May 21, 2005 and is currently operating on its backup SCP. The satellite is a Hughes HS 601, launched more than 13 years ago on Aug. 13, 1992. Sat-index.com said Optus plans to launch two new D1 and D2 satellites, with the first to be launched this year and the second 18 months later.