Venezuela's Flagship Communications Satellite Out of Service and Tumbling

Venezuela’s first and only state-owned communications satellite has
been out of service since March 13 when a series of maneuvers left
it tumbling in an unusable orbit. SpaceNews reports: The VeneSat-1
satellite, built by China Great Wall Industry Corp. and launched in
late 2008 on a 15-year mission to provide television and broadband
services to Venezuela, has been stuck for 10 days in an elliptical
orbit above the geostationary arc, according to telescopic
observations from two U.S. companies that track satellites.
VeneSat-1’s operator, the Venezuelan space agency ABAE, had issued
no status reports on the satellite as of March 23 and could not be
reached for comment March 22 or March 23. In January, ABAE said
Venezuela and China planned to develop a replacement satellite,
VeneSat-2, that would continue service after VeneSat-1 retired.
California-based ExoAnalytic Solutions, which operates a network of
satellite- and debris-tracking telescopes, spotted a “significant
orbit change” for VeneSat-1 on March 13 at 3:15 a.m. Eastern, when
the satellite left its position at 78 degrees West longitude over
Venezuela, Bill Therien, ExoAnalytic’s vice president of
engineering, told SpaceNews. Approximately three hours later, the
satellite conducted another maneuver that sent it tumbling
westward, he said. Telescope observations from ExoAnalytic and
Pennsylvania-based AGI show VeneSat-1 tumbling in an elliptical
orbit that at its lowest point is 50 kilometers above the
geosynchronous arc where most large communications satellites
reside. Venesat-1’s highest point, or apogee, is roughly 36,300
kilometers — or about 525 kilometers above the geosynchronous arc,
according to the companies. Bob Hall, AGI technical director for
space situational awareness, said VeneSat-1 has drifted 30 degrees
from its original orbital slot since March 13. If the satellite
drifts another 40 degrees, it will be beyond line of sight from
Venezuela, complicating any efforts to restore control of the
spacecraft unless Venezuela relies on ground stations in other
countries. VeneSat-1 will likely be maneuvered into a so-called
graveyard orbit around 300 to 500 kilometers above the
geosynchronous belt, where inactive or dead satellites are expected
to orbit for thousands of years without colliding with active
satellites.


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Source: *FS – All – Science News 2 Net
Venezuela's Flagship Communications Satellite Out of Service and Tumbling