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Wayward 'zombiesat' poses risk to other satellites

Ground control to Galaxy 15

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An out-of-control Intelsat satellite that stopped communicating with ground crews last month poses a threat to other satellites as it wanders about 36,000km above the earth.

Dubbed Galaxy 15, the satellite stopped responding to ground controllers on April 5, according to Space.com. Since then, engineers have sent more than 150,000 commands to the roving craft in an attempt to regain control of it.

Its most recently reported orbital spot was 133 degrees west longitude 36,000km over the equator.

The first satellite that's likely to face signal interference is the AMC-11, which is owned by SES. Galaxy 15 will enter the AMC-11's neighborhood on May 23 and will exit it around June 7. May 31 to June 1 will be the riskiest time for AMC-11 customers as its parent, SES World Skies, tries to position it as far as possible from the wayward Galaxy 15 while still allowing it to operate as normally as possible.

SES and Intelsat have been meeting since shortly after Galaxy 15 lost contact in an attempt to minimize interference.

Galaxy 15 could interfere with other satellites as well. The Galaxy 13 and Galaxy 14 could encounter problems in mid July.

Galaxy 15 is just one of many "zombiesats" that wander the geostationary arc after becoming unresponsive. Many eventually drift to one of two libration points located at 105 degrees west and 75 degrees east. More than 160 satellites are gathered at these points, which are the orbital equivalents of rain gutters. ®

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