'Zombie' Satellite Still Stalking The Skies

It's baaaaaaack: Intelsat's incommunicado Galaxy 15 satellite is on a course to pass near the orbital paths of three SES World Skies spacecraft over the next two months -- including AMC-18, one of the primary satellites used by Comcast Media Center.

Intelsat lost control of Galaxy 15 in April, and the so-called zombie satellite in May threatened to interfere with SES's AMC-11, which delivers more than 100 cable networks in North America. The two companies worked together to "leapfrog" AMC-11 over Galaxy 15 and successfully avoided interruption of service.

Now, "G-15" is expected to fly by AMC-18 on Nov. 24; AMC-1 on Dec. 4; and SES-1 on Dec. 15. Intelsat has "begun our discussions with SES, offering our facilities and support as well as sharing our technical and operational information, in an effort to assist them as they finalize their interference-mitigation planning for the upcoming fly-bys," Intelsat spokesman Nicholas Mitsis said.

Comcast Media Center currently uses about 20 transponders on AMC-18, to deliver the HITS Quantum digital video distribution service to cable operators. SES shot that satellite into space in late 2006 and it became operational in February 2007. At press time, a CMC spokesman was checking into the company's response plans with regard to Galaxy 15.

CMC also uses transponders on AMC-1, along with InDemand Networks and other programmers.

John Vartanian, chief technology officer of InDemand, said in a statement: "As we did in May 2010 with AMC-11, we are working closely with SES World Skies to develop a plan that will ensure that our affiliates have minimal interference. We successfully mitigated interference to AMC 11 then, and expect similar results with AMC-1."

Meanwhile, Intelsat has been working with Ottawa, Canada-based Telesat to prepare for G-15's fly-by of the Telesat Anik F1R satellite on Nov. 12. The companies completed Galaxy 15's fly-by of Anik F2 on Oct. 24. "Naturally, our current focus is with Telesat," Mitsis said.

Galaxy 15 was launched Oct. 13, 2005, and was expected to have been in service until 2022.