TAMPA, Fla. — A thruster issue was behind a temporary outage of Arabsat’s aging Badr-6 broadcast satellite in February, according to an executive for the Saudi Arabia-based operator.
The satellite’s payload was shut off for “a few hours” Feb. 6 to preserve power and fuel at its geostationary orbital slot covering the Middle East, North Africa and parts of southern Europe, Arabsat chief strategy officer Abdulhadi Alhassani told SpaceNews.
However, Alhassani said customers noticed minimal disruption because engineers quickly transferred them to other satellites Arabsat operates at 26 degrees east.
“The services were all recovered in no time,” he said, adding that Badr-6 has since returned to service and is “healthy” even as the spacecraft nears the end of its 15-year design life following its July 2008 launch.
Badr-6 is based on the Eurostar 2000+ platform developed by Astrium Satellites, now Airbus Defence and Space, which declined to comment.
Also known as Arabsat 4AR, it has 24 C-band and 20 Ku-band transponders for primarily providing video broadcasting services, in addition to supporting telephony and data transmissions.
Even though Badr-6 has been restored, Alhassani said Arabsat had not returned all customers that were moved to other satellites because of an incoming replacement satellite.
SpaceX is slated to launch Badr-8 in May on a Falcon 9 to replace and expand Arabsat’s C-band and Ku-band capacity at 26 degrees east.
“We did not want to transit customers and then, in one year’s time, bring them back again,” he said.
Badr-8 is based on Airbus’ Eurostar Neo platform, which unlike chemically powered Badr-6 has an all-electric propulsion system that also means it would take four to five months to reach its final orbital slot post-launch.
While the cause of Badr-6’s thruster issue is still under investigation, Alhassani said he was not too surprised to see it run into a problem.
“Satellites toward the end of their lifetime start needing a knee or hip replacement,” he said.
He said Badr-6, like all seven satellites Arabsat is currently operating, has in-orbit insurance but declined to discuss whether the operator planned to make a claim.
Badr-8 will also carry an experimental photonics feeder link from Airbus called Teleo, designed to demonstrate optical communications that the manufacturer said makes it “highly robust against jamming.”