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Science And Nature

Intense solar storms leave Intelsat’s Galaxy 15 satellite uncontrollable: report

The Galaxy 15 satellite in a lab prior to launch.

The Galaxy 15 satellite in a lab ahead of launch.(Image credit: Orbital Sciences)

International satellite services firm Intelsat has lost control of 1 of its satellites after it had been presumably disabled by space weather.

Intelsat is wanting to regain control of the Galaxy 15 broadcast satellite following a disruption on Friday (Aug. 19). Intelsat said a geomagnetic storm likely “knocked out onboard electronics had a need to talk to the satellite,” in accordance with a report from Spacenews.com (opens in new tab).

“The satellite is otherwise operating nominally, keeping Earth pointing with all payload operations nominal,” Intelsat spokesperson Melissa Longo said in the report. Longo added that the business is offloading Galaxy 15 customers onto other satellites, and it’ll “continue steadily to make an effort to regain command after they are off so we are able to eventually deorbit it.”

Galaxy 15 operates in a geostationary orbit at an inclination of 133 degrees west, providing media coverage to the Americas, in accordance with Intelsat (opens in new tab). The satellite was built by Orbital Sciences Corporation (later acquired by Northrop Grumman) and launched in 2005.

This is not the 1st time that Intelsat has lost control of Galaxy 15. In 2010, the business lost connection with the satellite for over eight months before it finally began accepting commands from Intelsat’s control center following its batteries fully drained and prompted a reset.

The U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) issued a warning (opens in new tab) on Aug. 16 in regards to a category G3 geomagnetic storm, writing that “impacts to your technology from the G3 storm are often minimal.” The storm was powerful enough to create dazzling auroras all over the world.

Most geomagnetic storms are harmless, although intense storms can disrupt radio transmission or damage power lines along with other electrical infrastructure along with satellites. Throughout 2022, a hotbed of solar activity has generated many large solar flares and coronal mass ejections (CMEs), suggesting that sunlight is “getting up” from the more dormant phase of its 11-year cycle of activity.

Some space weather experts have forecasted that the existing cycle could possibly be among the strongest solar cycles in recorded history, although there’s room for debate as our current knowledge of the sun’s behaviors is still limited.

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Brett Tingley

Brett is really a science and technology journalist who’s interested in emerging concepts in spaceflight and aerospace, alternative launch concepts, anti-satellite technologies, and uncrewed systems. Brett’s work has appeared on The War Zone at TheDrive.com, Popular Science, the annals Channel, Science Discovery, and much more. Brett obtained a Bachelors degree in English from Clemson University and a Masters degree in Rhetoric and Composition from the University of NEW YORK at Charlotte. In his leisure time, Brett is really a working musician, a hobbyist electronics engineer and cosplayer, a devoted LEGO fan, and enjoys hiking and camping through the entire Appalachian Mountains along with his wife and two children.

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