A TV communications satellite is drifting out of control thousands of miles above the Earth, threatening to wander into another satellite’s orbit and interfere with cable programming across the United States, the satellites’ owners said Tuesday.
Communications company Intelsat said it lost control of the Galaxy 15 satellite on April 5, possibly because the satellite’s systems were knocked out by a solar storm. Intelsat cannot remotely steer the satellite to remain in its orbit, so Galaxy 15 is creeping toward the adjacent path of another TV communications satellite that serves U.S. cable companies.
Galaxy 15 continues to receive and transmit satellite signals, and they will probably overlap and interfere with signals from the second satellite, known as AMC 11, if Galaxy 15 drifts into its orbit as expected around May 23, according to the two satellite companies.
AMC 11 receives digital programming from cable television channels and transmits it to all U.S. cable systems from its orbit 22,000 miles (36,000 kilometers) above the equator, SES World Skies said. It operates on the same frequencies as Galaxy 15.
“That fact means that there is likely to be some kind of interference,” Yves Feltes, a spokesman for AMC 11 owner SES World Skies, told The Associated Press. “Our aim is to bring any interference down to zero.”
He would not name any of the cable television channels or providers that could be affected or say how long the interference could last.
Galaxy 15 is floating over the Pacific Ocean slightly to the east of Hawaii, said Emmet Fletcher, space surveillance and tracking manager for the Space Situational Awareness Programme at the European Space Agency.
A spokesman for the satellite’s manufacturer, Orbital Sciences Corp., did not return a phone call seeking comment.