SES’ AMC 9 is Slowly Drifting Out of Orbit

Following an anomaly that occurred last week, SES’ AMC 9 satellite is drifting away from a fully synchronous orbit at a rate just under 0.2 degrees per day, Markus Payer, SES vice president of corporate communications, told Via Satellite.

The company first noticed the anomaly on Saturday, June 17, and immediately began the process of transferring its customers to alternative capacity, which is still underway. “Luckily … we have a large fleet and therefore can provide alternatives,” Payer said.

However, SES and Thales Alenia Space, the satellite’s manufacturer, have yet to identify the root cause of the anomaly, which may be connected to the satellite being nudged out of orbit. It remains to be seen whether SES will be able to re-establish a connection. If AMC 9 cannot be recovered, the financial impact on the company’s revenue could be up to 20 million euros ($22.7 million), the company said in a statement.

Payer also noted that that AMC 9 occupies a relatively eccentric Geostationary Orbit (GEO), which limits the likelihood of it crossing paths with another asset. Nonetheless, SES has switched off AMC 9’s payload to ensure it does not interfere with signals from other satellites nearby. Payer said too that the company is meticulously observing the satellite and keeping in touch with owners of other assets in the neighborhood to prevent any further incidents.

As yet, SES has not adjusted its deployment plan for future satellites. “Further fleet planning can only kick in when we know exactly what we can or cannot do with AMC 9,” said Payer. “We have to wait for the end of that process to see if we can get in touch with the satellite again, and whether then we can give commands and get telemetry from the satellite itself.”

AMC 9 was already reaching the end of its nominal 15-year lifespan, having been launched back in 2003. It carries 24 Ku-band and 24 C-band transponders and provides coverage over the United States and Mexico.

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