A communications satellite has just died in orbit. It's potentially dangerous junk from space now



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Luxembourg-based Intelsat has announced that its Intelsat 29E satellite (IS-29E) now represents a total loss, after having previously announced that the satellite had suffered an anomaly.

Late on April 7, the Intelsat 29e propulsion system sustained damage that caused the propeller to leak onboard the aircraft. Satellite, resulting in service interruption for customers.

This event resulted in an interruption of service on the Intelsat 29e satellite, which affected customers in the maritime, aeronautical and wireless network sectors in the Latin American, Caribbean and North Atlantic regions.

Related: Satellite Quiz: How do you know what's going on around the Earth?

During the recovery of the satellite, a second anomaly occurred, after which all satellite recovery efforts failed, said representatives of Intelsat.

The IS-29E satellite before its launch in 2016.

The IS-29E satellite before its launch in 2016.

(Image: © Boeing)

Customers concerned

"Since the anomaly, Intelsat is in active contact with affected customers," said the global satellite operator in a statement.

"Restoration routes from other Intelsat satellites serving the region and third-party satellites have been provided for the majority of the services being disrupted, and service migration and restoration is well underway, highlighting the resilience of Intelsat's fleet and the benefits of the rugged Ku ecosystem open architecture ecosystem, "the statement said.

Quite disturbing

The statement of Intelsat that IS-29E is a total loss "means that it will continue to drift unchecked into its current orbit in GEO [geostationary orbit], said T.S. Kelso, operator of CelesTrak, a leading source for orbital element sets and associated software for monitoring satellites and orbital debris.

Kelso tweeted on April 16 that the current situation with IS-29E "continues to be quite disturbing, "with the satellite spiraling around his IS-11 and IS-32E brothers of the spacecraft, and it has been reported 13 associated debris," he said.

The errant IS-29E is not the only threat to the geostationary orbit (GEO) today. Here is a view of everything that is being monitored in this area of ​​the GEO Protected Area. Green represents operational satellites. orange, dead; red rocket body; and yellow, other debris.

The errant IS-29E is not the only threat to the geostationary orbit (GEO) today. Here is a view of everything that is being monitored in this area of ​​the GEO Protected Area. Green represents operational satellites. orange, dead; red rocket body; and yellow, other debris.

(Image: © CelesTrak)

Nightmare scenario

In one tweet earlierOn April 11, Kelso said he "was watching nervously this morning" while IS-29E and NASA's "Follow-up satellite 3 monitoring" presented what we consider a "nightmare scenario" in GEO: a meeting at high speed (~ 1 km / s) Wish Intelsat good luck to find IS-29E under control. "

The Intelsat 29E satellite launched on January 27, 2016, at the summit of a Ariane 5 booster.

At the same time, according to the Intelsat release, "a fault review committee was convened with the satellite maker, Boeing, to carry out a full analysis of the cause of the failure. ;anomaly".

"At this point, we know he's still spinning around the GEO belt, drifting about 1.2 degrees in longitude a day," Kelso told Inside Outer Space. "That means it will be around the belt in a little less than a year, we will have another large object on which we can remain vigilant and avoid the other 500 operational GEO satellites."

You can keep an eye on the IS-29E satellite via CelesTrak interactive 3D view.

Note: Click the globe icon for GEO. search for IS-29E (and then clear the filter); click on IS-29E on the right and follow; Click on the dots to see what they are.

Leonard David has written the forthcoming book "Moon Rush: The New Race in Space", which will be published by National Geographic in May 2019. Longtime writer for Space.com, David discusses the industry space for more than five decades. Follow us on twitter @Spacedotcom or Facebook.

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