SES reconnects with AMC-9, sights possible fragments


WASHINGTON — Satellite operator SES says it has regained the ability to communicate with AMC-9, a 14-year old satellite in the company’s fleet that stopped listening to commands June 17, but that the satellite continues to list westward from its geosynchronous orbital slot.

In a statement provided to SpaceNews July 2, Luxembourg-based SES said that two pieces of debris have also been spotted in the satellite’s vicinity. SES said it has not concluded yet if the objects broke off from AMC-9.

U.S. Air Force’s Joint Space Operations Center and ExoAnalytic Solutions, a commercial space situational awareness company with a network of more than 150 ground-based telescopes, are both monitoring the satellite, SES said. The operator turned off the satellite’s payload shortly after discovering the anomaly in June and has since transferred the majority of customers using the satellite to other SES spacecraft.

SES on June 27 reduced the forecasted impact on the operator’s 2017 revenue to “lower than EUR 20 million” ($22.9 million). Should SES and Thales Alenia Space, the satellite’s manufacturer, determine AMC-9 cannot be recovered, SES expects to take a single impairment charge of 38 million euros.

Here is SES’s full statement:

In the early hours of 1st July, the SES Satellite Control reestablished contact to AMC-9. SES and the satellite manufacturer Thales are working around the clock to evaluate the status and define the next steps.
Tracking information received on 29 June had suggested that at least two separate objects were located in the vicinity of AMC-9. Their source has still to be determined. The new piece of information was included by Thales and SES in their investigations.
All relevant operators and agencies are being kept informed and will receive regular updates from SES. The current assessment is that there is no risk of a collision with other active satellites. AMC-9 and its status continue to being tracked by SES and agencies, including the Joint Space Operations Centre (JSpOC) and ExoAnalytic, a private firm and tracking service provider.
Since the incident on 17 June 2017, AMC-9 has been slowly moving westwards with its payload disabled and not causing interference. A majority of traffic has been transferred to other SES satellites and SES is working on a long-term plan to minimize disruption to customers.