The Galaxy 15 Saga Continues

In researching this week's Satellite Update, I found notice of a request by Intelsat North America to retain its authorization at 129 degrees West Longitude (WL), a request necessitated the failure of Galaxy 15.

After the failure of Galaxy 15, Intelsat North America moved Galaxy 12 to 133 degrees WL to ensure continuity of service to Galaxy 15 customers. Galaxy 12 was to be positioned at 129 degrees to replace Galaxy 27, which had to be moved to 45.1 degrees East Longitude (EL) "to ensure a timely start of mission-critical services for a United States government customer."

As a result of all of these moves, the 129 degree WL orbital location will be vacant for more than 90 days, resulting in the automatic termination of Intelsat's permit to operate at 129 degrees, unless it requests special temporary authority to leave the location vacant.

In its request, Intelsat stated that according to an analysis by Orbital Sciences Corp., the spacecraft manufacturer, it's possible that command of the Galaxy 15 satellite could be re-gained in August or September this year.

How could this happen?

"This possibility arises because the satellite in this timeframe is expected to lose earth lock and rotate away from earth, then lose all power (once the batteries are drained," Intelsat said. "It is then expected to rotate back toward earth, which will provide sun to the solar arrays, repowering the satellite, and [this] might cause effectively a 'rebooting' of the command system."

If the Intelsat 15 satellite can be recovered, Intelsat will move it back to 133 degrees WL, freeing up Galaxy 12 to be redeployed to 129 degrees WL as originally planned.

If this doesn't work, Intelsat will begin the process of securing a satellite to fill the 133 degree WL location and free up Galaxy 12 to move to 129 degree WL. This is expected to take from 30 to 36 months. If the FCC denies the Intelsat request and terminates their authorization at 129 degrees WL, an operator at this location would have 5 years (60 months) to deploy a newly licensed satellite.

Doug Lung

Doug Lung is one of America's foremost authorities on broadcast RF technology. He has been with NBC since 1985 and is currently vice president of broadcast technology for NBC/Telemundo stations.