by Caleb Henry —
WASHINGTON — Ground-based observations of PT Telkom’s 18-year old Telkom-1 satellite show a large cloud of debris generated the night the satellite lost contact with customers across Indonesia.
ExoAnalytic Solutions, a commercial space-situational-awareness company that employs a network of telescopes to track satellites and other orbital objects, recorded the event Aug. 25. That was the same day Indonesian satellite operator PT Telkom says Telkom-1 experienced its antenna problem.
“There were definitely several larger pieces that we can track individually,” Doug Hendrix, ExoAnalytic Solutions CEO, told SpaceNews. “The question is: was there a cloud of very small pieces, too? That is what we are trying to figure out.”
ExoAnalytic Solutions uses a network of more than 160 optical telescopes to monitor the geostationary arc, a 36,000 kilometer-high belt around the Earth where most telecommunications satellites reside. Those telescopes can detect objects down to 0.4 meters in size, Hendrix said, and with post-processing, down to 10 centimeters.
Hendrix said ExoAnalytic Solutions will need to perform additional observations, but preliminary data shows Telkom-1 did not collide with another object. The damage to the satellite appears severe, however.
“As we analyze data from after the incident over several nights, we may be able to determine if the satellite still has the solar panels attached,” he said. “Our telescope observations indicate that the satellite has been in a fairly fast tumble since the incident.”