July 3, 2017
The stricken AMC 9 communications satellite that suffered a sudden and unexpected anomaly on June 17 has shed at least four pieces of debris according to information from the U.S. Air Force and private tracking firm ExoAnalytic Solutions. Although the satellite’s operator SES managed to re-establish communications with the craft, the liberation of debris underlines the serious nature of the anomaly.
Luxembourg-based operator SES confirmed on June 18 that the company’s 14-year old AMC 9 communications satellite suffered “a significant anomaly” in the morning of June 17, characterized by a sudden loss of communications from the spacecraft as it later became known. SES immediately put plans in motion to move customers to other satellites to minimize the interruption in services and satellite manufacturer Thales Alenia went into action to diagnose the issue and work out potential recovery steps.
The June 17 event was associated with a sudden change in the satellite’s orbit, nudging the craft from a perfectly stationary orbit at 83 degrees West into a drift orbit of 35,615 x 35,984 Kilometers, moving westward at around 0.17 degrees per day. Analysis showed the anomaly imparted a change in velocity of 17 meters per second to the satellite, indicating some type of energetic event had transpired.