‘Zombie’ Bird Threatens Nets

SES World Skies executives are
closely monitoring the path of Intelsat’s
“zombie” Galaxy 15 satellite for any interference
with its AMC-11, which handles
distribution for dozens of cable networks in
North America.

The Galaxy 15 spacecraft — which stopped
responding to ground controllers in early
April — was projected to be at AMC-11’s assigned
orbital location of 131 degrees West
on Monday (May 31).

Sometime on Monday morning, AMC-
11 and Galaxy 15 were expected to be at the
same longitudinal position. At that point,
SES planned to execute a “leapfrog maneuver”
for AMC-11, moving it from 0.3 degrees
East to 0.3 degrees West of its nominal position
at 131 degrees West, noted SES World
Skies chief technology officer Alan Young.

“This is obviously not a routine effort,”
Young said. “We’ve had to shuff le things
around. There’s a large contingent of people
working on this.”

Cable networks delivered via AMC-11 include:
The Weather Channel, Nick Jr., Nickelodeon
West, MTV HD West, Bravo East,
Lifetime, Showtime East, Hallmark Channel
HD, C-SPAN, E! HD East, Food Network East,
DIY Network, Great American Country, QVC,
A&E East and West, History East and West,
Military Channel, HD Th eater, BBC America
and Univision East.

Galaxy 15 is expected to drift out of AMC-
11’s orbital box by next Monday (June 7).

SES staff will be monitoring the situation
from Intelsat’s teleport in Clarksburg, Md.
For affected AMC-11 customers, Intelsat said it would provide “turnaround” services from
four other SES satellites to AMC-11 via a 19-
meter uplink tracking antenna.

In any case, the chance of an actual collision
between the two satellites is statistically
nil, because they will never be less than
100 kilometers apart, Young said. “There’s
no concern about a collision,” he added. “But
there is a concern about interference.”

As a contingency, SES World Skies said it
also would maneuver the recently launched
SES-1 to 0.3 degrees West of AMC-11’s orbital
position — so that if there were interference
from Galaxy 15, customers could cut
over to SES-1.

Scripps Networks, which relies on AMC-11
to provide transmission service for all standard-
defi nition versions of HGTV, Food Network,
Travel Channel, DIY Network, Great
American Country and Cooking Channel,
which will debut on May 31, spoke about its
own mitigation strategy.

“Scripps Networks’ transmission engineers
have worked closely with Intelsat, SES
and other programmers to develop a comprehensive
plan and take every action to
avoid this potential interference,” said Mark
Hale, executive vice president and chief
technology officer of Scripps Networks Interactive,
the parent company of Scripps Networks.
“We believe we have a sound strategy
for mitigating the situation, and we are proactively
reaching out to all of our distribution
partners to provide the details of the transmission
adjustments that must be made to
maintain our programming signals without

Scripps Networks’ mitigation strategy
involves increasing transponder sensitivity
to create a greater transmit margin between
AMC-11 and Galaxy 15. Scripps has
also established secondary feeds on AMC-1
and AMC-2, each of which are safe from the
zone of interference, to be available to affiliates
through June 8.

Intelsat’s C-band Galaxy 15 was launched
in October 2005 and had been expected to
remain in service until 2022. While initial
reports suggested a solar storm disabled the
satellite, “no definitive conclusions have
been reached as to the actual source of the
anomaly,” according to Intelsat.

Intelsat in April moved customers from
Galaxy 15 to Galaxy 12 with “minimal disruption”
to services.