by Caleb Henry —
WASHINGTON — DirecTV’s Spaceway-1 satellite has been retired to a graveyard orbit 500 kilometers above the geostationary arc, eliminating the risk of the malfunctioning satellite exploding in an orbit populated by active satellites.
Ground-based observations from ExoAnalytic Solutions’ network of space surveillance telescopes show that Spaceway-1 has been moved out of harm’s way and deactivated.
“Its light curve indicates that it’s no longer stabilized,” Bill Therien, ExoAnalytic’s vice president of engineering, said Feb. 14 by email. Satellites like Spaceway-1 rely on attitude control systems to maintain a stable orientation in orbit. Without power or propulsion to keep it stable, a satellite will begin to tumble.
Fleet operator Intelsat, which flew Spaceway-1 on behalf of DirecTV, notified satellite trackers this week that the 15-year-old satellite had been successfully decommissioned “well above the threshold for the GEO graveyard orbit,” according to T.S. Kelso, a senior research astrodynamicist at Analytical Graphics Inc.
Therien said that Spaceway-1, which operated from geostationary orbit some 36,000 kilometers above the equator, had by Feb. 10 completed its 500 kilometer climb to a graveyard orbit. Its new orbit is high enough to keep the defunct satellite circling the globe for millions of years.