After another satellite went out of service in geostationary orbit this week, at least temporarily, new data now suggests the spacecraft may not be recoverable.
On Wednesday, the satellite operator Intelsat acknowledged a "service outage" on its Intelsat 29e satellite, which had affected maritime, aeronautical, and wireless operator customers in Latin America, the Caribbean, and North Atlantic. During the incident on Sunday, April 7, the spacecraft's propulsion system "experienced damage that caused a leak of the propellant on board the satellite," Intelsat said. At that time, Intelsat was periodically losing communication with the satellite, but the company was working with its manufacturer, Boeing, to restore the connection.
However, new data from ExoAnalytic Solutions, which has a network of 300 telescopes around the planet to track satellite movements in geostationary space, shows the situation has gotten markedly worse.
Since being alerted to the anomaly on Sunday, the company has been tracking Intelsat 29e with at least two telescopes at all time, the company's chief executive, Doug Hendrix, told Ars. On Thursday, one of those telescopes captured the video embedded below, which shows a continued splintering of the satellite over a period of four hours. The ball of light at center is Intelsat 29e, and the streaks are background stars. First, there is a series of anomalous out-gassing events from the spacecraft, after which a persistent halo remains. As the halo dissipates, there are several pieces of debris that are continued to be tracked.
Before Thursday's incident, the satellite had been driftinRead More – Source