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Jan 28, 2020

Emergency disposal maneuver okayed for satellite at risk of exploding

Posted by in category: satellites

DirecTV has been granted permission by the US Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to send a damaged communications satellite in danger of exploding into an emergency disposal trajectory. The Boeing-built Spaceway-1 direct-broadcast satellite suffered a “major anomaly” last month that caused severe thermal damage to its batteries and must now be moved to an orbit where it will not pose a hazard to other spacecraft.

Orbiting space debris is a major and growing hazard and there has been a great deal of effort in recent years to both clean up dead satellites and to minimize the production of more debris. This not only includes the building of tougher spacecraft that won’t shed bits and pieces but also making sure that damaged satellites are properly disposed of before they become a threat.

According to documents filed by DirecTV with the FCC, the 13,400-lb (6,080-kg) Spaceway-1, which is in a geosynchronous orbit 35,800 km (22,200 mi) above the Earth’s equator, was damaged by an unspecified event in December 2019. Telemetry from the satellite was examined by Boeing engineers who concluded that the batteries on the 702-model satellite had suffered significant and irreversible damage.

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