BOGOTA, Colombia (AP) — Venezuela’s only telecommunications satellite has veered off its orbit and stopped working, creating a logistical headache for the cash-strapped South American nation.
The Chinese-built satellite was launched among much fanfare in 2008 under the watch of former President Hugo Chavez, who said that the six-ton machine would help to “construct 21st century socialism” and contribute to Venezuela’s “independence and sovereignty.”
The satellite was helping to provide internet services to rural areas that are not connected to fiber optic cables, and was also being used to broadcast Venezuela’s heavily politicized state-run television channels into poor or rural homes that have no access to cable TV.
“Now the government will need to resort to international satellite providers to distribute its content” to the poorest Venezuelans, said William Peña a Venezuelan journalist who specializes on telecommunications. But migrating to commercial satellites will cost millions of dollars and could be hindered by U.S. sanctions.
State-run television will continue to be broadcast through cable operators and old-fashioned antennas. But Peña said that it will be harder to access in some parts of the country where telecommunications infrastructure is crumbling. A report published in 2018 by Venezuela’s official National Telecommunicatrions Commission noted that only six of 10 homes in the country have paid television services like cable or DirectTV.
The satellite’s problems were first noticed on March 13, when ExoAnalytic Solutions, a California company that tracks global satellite traffic, reported that VeneSat-1 had veered away from its position at 78 degrees west longitude above Venezuela and was tumbling westward.
lite was launched among much fanfare in 2008 under the watch of former President Hugo Chavez, who said that the six-ton machine would help to “construct 21st century socialism” and contribute to Venezuela’s “independence and sovereignty.”
But as Chavez’s socialist revolution decays under U.S. sanctions and years of economic mismanagement, the nation’s prized satellite is tumbling in space and has become useless three years before its planned expiration date of 2023.