DirecTV races to de-orbit satellite it fears could explode

Lawrence Kim
January 25, 2020

It was not immediately clear what was causing the battery damage or whether other Boeing-built satellites were at risk. To mitigate potential damage to other satellites, the USA government will allow the satellite TV provider to move the doomed craft to a higher orbit ahead of schedule.

Spaceway-1 now operates alongside many satellites in a geosynchronous orbit.

The satellite built in Boeing suffered damage to its batteries during a "major deviation" in December, the filing said, and DirecTV hopes to avoid a scenario where the satellite bursts into orbit, which could damage other communications satellites in the area.

According to the submission, Boeing concluded that after the battery was damaged, the batteries run a high risk of bursting when being charged. However, the battery would have to be used in late February if it wanders through the earth's shadow. Instead, on January 19, DirecTV requested that the FCC allow the company to relocate the satellite to a higher orbit known as the "graveyard orbit", roughly 185 miles (300 km) above its current path, where, hopefully, Spaceway-1 can explode in peace. DirecTV had to make the request because the FCC requires satellites to burn all their fuel before decommissioning, but that won't be possible for Spaceway-1 in the given time frame.

The DirecTV satellite is now powered by electricity that is generated directly by the solar modules.

RIP, Spaceway-1. May your broken body rust in peace in the quiet of space.

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