KOUROU, French Guiana — The International Telecommunication Union (ITU) has issued a call for assistance from its 191 member governments to determine whether any of them has assumed responsibility for a recently launched telecommunications satellite that one ITU member – the United Arab Emirates – fears may pose “a risk of physical collision” with its Thuraya-3 mobile communications spacecraft.

In a July 21 letter, the Geneva-based ITU says it is “extremely concerned and alarmed to be the witness of a situation in which a satellite, in this case ProtoStar-1, could be operated in contravention of the ITU Constitution … without a responsible administration and by an unknown operating agency not duly authorized by an ITU member state.”

San Francisco-based, Bermuda-headquartered ProtoStarLtd.’s ProtoStar-1 was launched July 7 and is beginning in-orbit tests in preparation for being transferred to its intended orbital slot at 98.45 degrees east in geostationary orbit. ProtoStar recently lost the backing of the
government for its orbital-slot and broadcast-frequency license following a decision by an ITU body not to grant an extension to the June 28 deadline for bringing the ProtoStar-1 system into operation.

That left ProtoStar without regulatory support and in an unclear legal situation. ProtoStar said in a July 18 statement to Space News that it had secured regulatory support from an unnamed government and would disclose the government’s identity to the ITU in due course.

Officials of the
United Arab Emirates
and Thuraya Satellite Telecommunications Co. of Abu Dhabi have expressed concerns to the ITU for months about ProtoStar’s close proximity to Thuraya-3, located at 98.5 degrees east.

Those concerns apparently have been exacerbated by the withdrawal of
from ProtoStar-1 operations.
authorities have told the ITU they no longer have any responsibility for ProtoStar-1.

In its July 21 letter, the ITU asks its member governments for “any information that your Administration is able to provide regarding an authorization for the IOT (in-orbit testing), which should include an authorization for the operation of the involved TT&C (telemetry, tracking and control of the satellite), as well as an authorization for further operation of the payload.”