by Caleb Henry —
WASHINGTON — DirecTV’s Spaceway-1 satellite, which suffered a battery malfunction last month that could still cause it to explode, is moving out of geostationary orbit and away from other satellites, ground-based observations show.
Spaceway-1 began relocating Jan. 29, two satellite trackers told SpaceNews, and is continuing to raise its altitude to a “graveyard orbit” about 300 kilometers above active geostationary communications satellites.
As of Friday morning, Spaceway-1 was about 100 to 120 kilometers above the geosynchronous arc and drifting west about 1.4 degrees per day, according to Bill Therien, vice president of engineering at ExoAnalytic Solutions, a Foothill Ranch, California-based company that operates a network of more than 300 telescopes that monitor satellites and objects in space.
Spaceway-1 moved 60-80 kilometers Thursday, and was drifting at a rate of 0.9 degrees to the west, Therien said.
Satellite position data called Two-Line Elements, or TLEs, show Spaceway-1 began moving Jan. 29 at about 2:00 a.m. Eastern, according to Jonathan McDowell, an astronomer at the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics who tracks satellite movements.
Spaceway-1 a 15-year-old satellite three years past its design life, suffered a battery malfunction in December and cannot be safely recharged.