Intelsat’s Galaxy 15 mutes payload as its drifts into other satellite paths

TAMPA, Fla. — Intelsat said the Galaxy 15 broadcast satellite that stopped responding to commands earlier this month shut down its payload Aug. 31, reducing the risk of interfering with signals from other spacecraft.

However, Galaxy 15 continues to drift out of its geostationary orbit slot at 133 degrees West, and “will soon begin transiting through orbital locations licensed for other satellites,” an Intelsat spokesperson said.

“Intelsat is working closely with impacted operators to minimize the impact of these transients,” the spokesperson said via email.

“With the payload muted, the focus of this coordination ensures ‘fly-by’ procedures are coordinated so that the spacecraft avoid a physical collision. This is a normal part of spacecraft operations that is regularly executed and poses minimal risk.”

Intelsat said it has successfully moved all customers from Galaxy 15 to its Galaxy 23 satellite as part of the company’s in-orbit protection program.

SpaceX is slated to launch Galaxy 33, Galaxy 15’s replacement, “on or about Oct. 8, 2022,” the spokesperson added.

The operator expects to move customers from Galaxy 23 to Galaxy 33 once that satellite enters service in November.

Galaxy 33 is one of two satellites Intelsat ordered in 2020 from Northrop Grumman as part of efforts to vacate C-band spectrum in the United States.

Intelsat said the anomaly on Galaxy 15, which carries 24 C-band transponders serving media customers in North America, will have no impact on the overall timeline for meeting regulatory deadlines for clearing C-band. 

The company is in line for nearly $5 billion in total from the Federal Communications Commission if it meets the regulator’s final December 2023 spectrum clearing deadline.

Galaxy 15 also has an L-band payload that is no longer in use. Launched in 2005, the satellite was built by Orbital Sciences Corp., now part of Northrop Grumman.

Intelsat said Aug. 19 that it had lost the ability to command Galaxy 15 after the satellite was likely hit by a geomagnetic storm that knocked out onboard electronics.

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