WASHINGTON — Satellite operator Intelsat of Washington and Luxembourg has officially decommissioned the Intelsat 603 satellite, whose claim to fame was having been rescued by spacewalking NASA astronauts after being launched into a bad orbit nearly 25 years ago.

Intelsat 603, built by what is now Boeing Satellite Systems, was left in a useless orbit by a commercial Titan 3 launcher in 1990. NASA came to the rescue two years later in a four-day space shuttle mission that succeeded in capturing the wayward satellite and attaching a new kick motor that enabled it to reach its operating position in geostationary orbit.

It was the first launch of NASA’s Space Shuttle Endeavor, and, according to a Jan. 22 blog post on Intelsat’s website, the first three-person spacewalk and the first rescue of an on-orbit satellite. Intelsat 603 was designed to operate for 15 years but continued to serve Europe, Africa and the Americas with telephone and television services for 20 years, Intelsat said.

On Jan. 23, Intelsat sent the final commands from its new facility in Tysons Corner, Virginia, to boost the aging satellite into a graveyard orbit 211 kilometers by 225 kilometers above the geostationary-orbit arc, Intelsat spokeswoman Dianne VanBeber said.


Warren Ferster is the Editor-in-Chief of SpaceNews and is responsible for all the news and editorial coverage in the weekly newspaper, the spacenews.com Web site and variety of specialty publications such as show dailies. He manages a staff of seven reporters...