'Zombie' Satellite Passes SES's AMC-11 Without Major Interruptions

The weekend of the zombie satellite has come and gone without any major disruptions reported to cable TV service in North America.

Intelsat's Galaxy 15 -- which stopped responding to ground controllers April 5 -- passed SES World Skies' AMC-11 satellite at orbital position 131 degrees West from Sunday, May 30, into Monday, May 31.

SES moved AMC-11 away from the out-of-control satellite, ultimately "leapfrogging" over Galaxy 15 on Monday. In addition, AMC-11 was temporarily adjusted to be more sensitive than Galaxy 15.

Those efforts appear to have been successful, with no interruptions reported by AMC-11 customers, according to both SES and Intelsat.

SES will now work to transfer customers back to their normal uplink facility over the next few days, said Alan Young, SES World Skies chief technology officer. "Although AMC-11 is still operating outside of its normal orbital position, and will be until June 7th, we anticipate no issues related to its return," he said. Galaxy 15 is expected to continue drifting eastward, exiting AMC-11's orbital box on June 7.

SES had used Intelsat's Clarksburg, Md., teleport to execute the avoidance maneuvers. Intelsat also provided turnaround services via a 19-meter uplink tracking antenna to all of SES's AMC-11 customers.

AMC-11 delivers more than 100 cable networks across the U.S., Canada and Caribbean, including A&E, Discovery, Food Network, Hallmark Channel, Hallmark Movie Channel, Lifetime, QVC, BBC America, CMT, Comedy Central, E! East HD, HD Theater, HGTV, MTV West, Nick Jr., Nickelodeon, Spike TV, Universal HD and 24 feeds from Showtime Networks.

SES also moved the recently launched SES-1 satellite into position near AMC-11 on the morning of Saturday, May 29, as a potential backup but that proved unneeded. SES-1 is now on its way to its assigned orbital slot at 101 degrees West.

However, signals from AMC-11 to affiliates in Hawaii, Alaska and the Caribbean would have experienced "severe service degradation" and operators in those regions would have needed to contact programmers directly for obtaining feeds from other satellites, according to SES World Skies.