Intelsat-29e, launched in January 2016, was declared a total loss April 18, 2019, after problems with its propulsion and communications systems. Credit: Intelsat.

WASHINGTON — Fleet operator Intelsat said its first high-throughput satellite, Intelsat-29e, is a “total loss” after attempts to save the malfunctioning satellite proved unsuccessful.

Intelsat-29e suffered a fuel leak April 7 after just three years in geostationary orbit. Most geostationary communications satellites last 15 years if not longer. 

After the fuel leak, a subsequent problem arose with Intelsat-29e’s communications link, causing gaps in contact with the satellite. Commercial telescopes from ExoAnalytic Solutions spotted the satellite drifting from its orbital position April 8. 

In an April 18 statement, Intelsat it formed a failure review board with Boeing, the satellite’s manufacturer, to conduct a “comprehensive analysis of the cause of the anomaly.”

Intelsat has six Epic-class high-throughput satellites in orbit, of which Boeing built payloads for all and the chassis for five (Airbus supplied the platform for Intelsat-32e). 

Intelsat said the majority of customers on Intelsat-29e have been transferred to other satellites in its fleet of around 50 spacecraft or onto satellites from other operators. Intelsat-29e covered the Americas and surrounding regions, including the Caribbean and the North Atlantic. It carried transponders in C-, Ku- and Ka-band frequencies. 

Caleb Henry is a former SpaceNews staff writer covering satellites, telecom and launch. He previously worked for Via Satellite and NewSpace Global.He earned a bachelor’s degree in political science along with a minor in astronomy from...