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Rogue TV satellite brought to heel after auto reboot

Wanderings, random shoutings ended by flat batteries

Internet Security Threat Report 2014

Intelsat bird Galaxy 15 is responding to commands again, having exhausted its batteries over eight months of uncontrolled broadcasting, thus forcing an automatic reboot.

The satellite rebooted on 23 December, and started transmitting its telemetry. Engineers from Intelsat picked that up and were able to get the rogue satellite into safe mode, so it is no longer a risk to other broadcasters and will now be tested to see if it can be returned to active service.

Galaxy 15 had been happily broadcasting TV pictures and routing communications since 2005, but in April this year it went rogue and refused to respond to routine commands intended to fix its orbital drift. The drifting satellite was unlikely to bump into anything else – orbit is fairly big – but it was still operating, and so it would automatically relay received signals as it passed close to nearby birds, potentially causing interference as it transmitted the same signal on a similar frequency.

The batteries weren't expected to last quite as long as they did, failure and reboot was expected within a few months, but many satellite companies managed to focus their uplinks to avoid the rogue – preventing it transmitting but eking out the main batteries.

Now that it has rebooted, Intelsat has charged up the batteries again, and started a complete diagnostic to see if Galaxy 15 can return to service. The satellite was supposed to last until 2025, so even if it burns through some manoeuvring fuel getting into a proper orbit it should have some life left in it – assuming they can work out why it failed in the first place. ®

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