A geostationary satellite that become a “zombie” earlier this year and stopped communicating with ground controllers has now finally been reset and is under control. The Galaxy 15 communications satellite had its “brains fried” by a solar flare and went rogue in early May. Although it was still functional, its navigation and communications systems would not accept commands, and the satellite drifted out of its orbit. On December 23, 2010, engineers at the company Intelsat were finally able to command the unit to reset after a battery drained. Shortly thereafter Galaxy 15 began accepting commands, and then was put into safe mode. “We are pleased to report it no longer poses any threat of satellite interference to either neighboring satellites or customer services,” IntelSat said on their website.
While there was little chance that Galaxy 15 would crash into another satellite, it caused some problems when it entered an orbital space occupied by other satellites and “stole” their signal, thereby interrupting other vendor’s services to customers on Earth.
Engineers will now do some diagnostic tests and load updated commanding software to the satellite.
“We expect to relocate the satellite to an Intelsat orbital location where engineers at our Satellite Operations Control Center will initiate extensive in-orbit testing to determine the functionality of every aspect of the spacecraft,” Intelsat said.
The satellite is currently pointed towards the Sun, allowing the spacecraft’s batteries to become fully charged and the satellite thermally balanced.
Once initial diagnostic testing has been completed, IntelSat will attempt to stop the drift of the satellite. This phase could take as long as two weeks to complete.
Intelsat is hoping full functionality of Galaxy 15 can be regained and they hope to relocate the satellite to an orbital location where we they can assess the viability of the payload, and conduct extensive in-orbit testing to determine the functionality of every aspect of the spacecraft.
Nancy Atkinson is currently Universe Today’s Contributing Editor. Previously she served as UT’s Senior Editor and lead writer, and has worked with Astronomy Cast and 365 Days of Astronomy. Nancy is the author of the new book “Incredible Stories from Space: A Behind-the-Scenes Look at the Missions Changing Our View of the Cosmos.” She is also a NASA/JPL Solar System Ambassador.