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23 Jan, 2020 09:42

US satellite being raced out of orbit due to risk of imminent EXPLOSION which may damage neighboring space tech

US satellite being raced out of orbit due to risk of imminent EXPLOSION which may damage neighboring space tech

The US Spaceway-1 broadcast satellite is being speedily moved out of orbit amid fears that it could wipe out nearby space technology if a devastating battery malfunction causes it to explode.

DirecTV, which owns the spacecraft, told the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) that the defect is so severe that it does not have time to deplete the satellite’s fuel before steering it deep into space to safely explode.

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The AT&T owned company says it will boost Spaceway-1 300 kilometers above the geostationary arc, the area of space where most of the world’s large communications satellites reside, to ensure there’s no collateral damage, SpaceNews reports

DirecTV already switched the faulty batteries off and the satellite has been operating on power generated by its solar panels. However, next month will see it pass through Earth’s shadow, where batteries will be its only power source, so it is being sent where satellites go to die.

The Boeing manufactured satellite was launched into orbit in 2005 with the help of the Russian-Ukrainian Zenit-3SL launch vehicle as part of the Sea Launch project. It was designed to last 12 years and it comfortably fulfilled that criteria before an unexplained anomaly caused “significant and irreversible thermal damage” to its batteries.

DirecTV explained in an FCC filing that the batteries are at high risk of bursting if recharged. “The risk of a catastrophic battery failure makes it urgent that Spaceway-1 be fully de-orbited and decommissioned prior to the February 25th start of eclipse season,” the company said.

Before the battery issue emerged, the company had estimated that the satellite had enough fuel onboard to stay in service until 2025. It is now decommissioning the satellite prior “to limit the risk of an accidental explosion.”

DirecTV said that no customers would be affected by Spaceway-1’s failure because it is a back-up satellite.

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