International satellite services company Intelsat has lost control of one of its satellites after it was presumably disabled by space weather.
Intelsat is attempting to regain control of its Galaxy 15 broadcast satellite after an outage on Friday (August 19). Intelsat said a geomagnetic storm likely “knocked out onboard electronics necessary to communicate with the satellite,” according to a report from Spacenews.com (opens in a new tab).
“The satellite is otherwise operating nominally, keeping the Earth pointing with all payload operations nominal,” Intelsat spokesperson Melissa Longo said in the report. Longo added that the company is offloading Galaxy 15 customers to other satellites, after which it will “continue to try to regain command once they’re off so we can ultimately decree it.”
Operating in a geostationary orbit with an inclination of 133 degrees west, Galaxy 15 provides media coverage to the Americas, according to Intelsat (opens in a new tab). The satellite was built by Orbital Sciences Corporation (later acquired by Northrop Grumman) and was launched in 2005.
This is not the first time Intelsat has lost control of the Galaxy 15. In 2010, the company lost contact with the satellite for over eight months before it finally started accepting commands from Intelsat’s control center after the batteries were completely discharged and a reset was requested.
US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) issued a warning (opens in a new tab) on August 16 about a category G3 geomagnetic storm, writing that “the impact on our technology from a G3 storm is usually minimal.” The storm was powerful enough to generate dazzling northern lights around the Earth.
Most geomagnetic storms are harmless, although intense storms can disrupt radio transmissions or damage power lines and other electrical infrastructure in addition to satellites. Throughout 2022 has a hotbed of solar activity generated many large solar flares and coronal mass ejections (CMEs), which suggest that the Sun is “waking up” from a more dormant phase of its 11-year cycle of activity.
Some space weather experts have predicted that the current cycle may be one of those strongest solar cycles in recorded historyalthough our current understanding of the Sun’s behavior is open to debate still limited.