Intelsat 29e.
Courtesy: Arianespace

Luxembourg-based Intelsat reports that its Intelsat 29e (IS29e) is now a total loss, reporting earlier that the spacecraft suffered an anomaly.

Late on April 7, the Intelsat 29e propulsion system experienced damage that caused a leak of the propellant on board the satellite resulting in a service disruption to customers on the satellite.

That event caused a service outage on the Intelsat 29e satellite that impacted maritime, aeronautical and wireless operator customers in the Latin America, Caribbean and North Atlantic regions.

While working to recover the satellite, a second anomaly occurred, after which all efforts to recover the satellite were unsuccessful.

Intelsat 9e pre-launch image.
Credit: Boeing

Affected customers

“Since the anomaly, Intelsat has been in active contact with affected customers,” the global satellite operator said in a statement.

“Restoration paths on other Intelsat satellites serving the region and third-party satellites have been provided for a majority of the disrupted services. Migration and service restoration are well underway; highlighting the resiliency of the Intelsat fleet and the benefit of the robust Ku-band open architecture ecosystem,” the statement explains.

Quite troubling

Given that Intelsat has declared its IS-29E a total loss, “means it will continue to drift uncontrolled along its current orbit in GEO,” explains T.S. Kelso, the operator of CelesTrak, a leading source for orbital element sets and related software to keep an eye on satellites and orbital debris.

Kelso tweeted back on April 16th that the current situation with IS-29E “continues to be quite troubling,” with the troubled satellite spiraling around IS-11 & IS-32E. Additionally there are reports of 13 pieces of associated debris, he reported.

Errant IS-29E is not the only threat in GEO today. Here is a view of everything tracked in that region of the GEO Protected Zone. Green are operational satellites, orange are dead ones, red are rocket bodies, yellow are other debris.
Credit: CelesTrak

Nightmare scenario

In an earlier tweet, on April 11th, Kelso said: “Watched nervously” this morning as IS-29E and NASA’s Tracking Data Relay Satellite 3 “had what we consider a ‘nightmare scenario’ in GEO — a high-speed encounter — (~1 km/s). Let’s wish Intelsat luck on getting IS-29E back under control.”


The Intelsat 29e satellite was launched on January 27, 2016 atop an Ariane 5 booster.

Meanwhile, according to the Intelsat statement, “a failure review board has been convened with the satellite’s manufacturer, Boeing, to complete a comprehensive analysis of the cause of the anomaly.”

“At this point, we know that it continues to spiral around the GEO belt drifting at about 1.2 degrees of longitude per day,” Kelso told Inside Outer Space. “That means it will be making a circuit of the belt in a little less than a year and we will have one more large object to stay on our toes about and steer clear of for all of the other 500+ operational GEO satellites.”

Interactive tool

To keep an eye on this troublesome event, go to this interactive 3D view at:

Note: Click the globe icon for GEO; search for IS-29E (then clear the filter); click on IS-29E on right & track; click dots to see what they are.

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