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Russian Telecom Satellite Fails After Sudden Impact

The RSCC array of telecom satellites, including Express-AM11, which failed suddenly on March 29. Image credit: RSCC
by Staff Writers
Moscow, Russia (SPX) Mar 30, 2006
The Russian Satellite Communications Company's Express-AM11 telecommunications satellite suffered a sudden failure on Wednesday. "At present, providing services via the Express-AM11 satellite is impossible," the company said in a statement.

Telemetry showed the failure, which occurred at 6:55 a.m. Moscow Time, was caused by "a sudden external impact on the spacecraft," RSCC said in a statement. The cause most probably was space garbage of unknown origin. The result was instantaneous depressurization of the satellite's thermal control system fluid circuit, followed by "a sudden outburst of the heat-carrying agent."

The spacecraft subsequently lost its geostationary orientation and proper rotation. Although ground engineers were able to maintain marginal control, RSCC said the AM11 "started approaching the crucial values that can result in the total loss of the satellite."

Along with the effective loss of the satellite, the company said the presence of space garbage most likely also renders its orbital slot unusable. Therefore engineers have engaged "organizational and technical measures aimed at removing the Express-AM11 from 96.5 East into space disposal orbit."

RSCC has downloaded the satellite's backup capacities on the east orbital arc and as a result all Russian commercial TV and radio broadcasting has been restored. In addition, engineers have transferred all official communications channels to the Express-A2 (103 East), Express-AM2 (80 East) and Express-AM3 (140 East) satellites.

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