A solar storm just knocked out a news transmission satellite

Intelsat is working to restore control of Galaxy 15.
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3d rendering of a mission to the sun
3d rendering of a mission to the Sun

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Solar shock waves have "knocked out" International Telecommunications Satellite Organization’s (Intelsat) transmission services.

Intelsat is working to restore control of the Galaxy 15 broadcast satellite, after a malfunction on August 19, according to a report published by Space.com on Tuesday.

"A geomagnetic (solar shock waves) storm likely knocked out onboard electronics needed to communicate with the satellite," Spacenews reported .

In 2010, the firm was unable to communicate with the satellite for more than eight months. It started responding to commands from Intelsat's control center after its batteries had depleted and forced a reset.

"The satellite is otherwise operating nominally, keeping Earth pointing with all payload operations nominal," Intelsat spokesperson Melissa Longo said.

The company is offloading Galaxy 15 clients onto other satellites, after which it will "continue to try to regain command once they are off so we can eventually deorbit it," she added.

Galaxy 15 transmits news to the Americas from a geostationary orbit with a 133-degree west inclination, according to Intelsat.

The satellite was created by Orbital Sciences Corporation and launched in 2005. Northrop Grumman eventually bought the company.

Geomagnetic storm warning

Despite the fact that "impacts to our technology from a G3 storm are typically limited," US's National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) issued a warning on August 16 concerning a category G3 geomagnetic storm.

The storm had enough force to cause dazzling auroras all across the world.

The relatively benign space weather circumstances of recent years are "coming to an end," Tzu-Wei Fang, a space scientist at NOAA's Space Weather Prediction Center (SWPC), warned on August 8.

The majority of geomagnetic storms are harmless, but powerful storms can affect satellites in addition to power lines, other electrical infrastructure, and radio transmission.

Great solar flares and coronal mass ejections (CMEs) have been produced in large quantities during the year 2022, indicating that the sun is "waking up" from a more inactive stage of its 11-year cycle of activity.

Some space weather specialists predict that the present solar activity will be one of the strongest in recorded history. However, this is subject to contention given our current understanding of the sun's activity.

Galaxy 15

Intelsat is the owner of the American communications satellite Galaxy 15. When PanAmSat and Intelsat combined in 2006, ownership of the satellite, which was initially launched for and run by PanAmSat, was subsequently transferred to Intelsat.

The satellite was first placed in geostationary orbit at 133° West longitude, serving as a communication satellite for North America.

The 24 transponders (wireless communications devices) that make up Galaxy 15's communications payload operate in either the C band of the US IEEE spectrum or the G and H bands of the NATO electromagnetic spectrum.

It carries two C/D bands (IEEE L band, radio frequencies) transponders, which are utilized for aircraft navigation and are a component of the US government's geostationary communications and control segment.

The Galaxy 15 satellite weighed 2,033 kilograms (4,482 lb) at launch and was designed to last for roughly 15 years.

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