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Drifting zombiesat could disrupt TV programming

Containing Galaxy 15

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Technicians are scrambling to keep an out-of-control satellite from interfering with US television programming as it drifts into the orbit of another satellite.

Galaxy 15, operated by Luxembourg-based Intelsat, stopped responding to ground controllers last month and has gradually been drifting about a tenth of a degree per day, according to news reports. It is currently just slightly to the east of Hawaii, about 22,000 miles above the equator.

Although the communications satellite is no longer responsive, it continues to broadcast its signal, posing a risk to the transmissions of a separate satellite, which is known as AMC 11 and is operated by Intelsat competitor SES World Skies. AMC 11 transmits high-definition television signals for more than 100 channels, including Showtime, MTV, and the Food Network.

Technicians at both satellite companies have a variety of options to prevent Galaxy 15 from interfering with AMC 11's signals. One is to use AMC 11's propulsion system to change the satellite's location. Other possibilities include moving some of its traffic onto other satellites or switching some of the customers to larger uplink antennas.

Galaxy 15 lost touch with ground crews on April 15 as the result of a solar storm. It is expected to eventually drift into one of two libration points, where at least 160 other "zombiesats" already await it.

Additional coverage from CNN, MSNBC, and Dow Jones is available here, here and here. ®

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