On April 5, a solar storm sent the 4,171-pound Galaxy 15 satellite flying out of control. But the careening TV satellite, now termed "Zombiesat" by those irrepressibly droll satellite engineers, still has its broadcast signals turned on. Those signals could interfere with other, non-zombie TV satellites, thus disrupting their ability to transmit life-sustaining television to the people of the Earth.
It gets worse: On May 23, the Galaxy 15 is expected to drift into the orbit of the AMC 11 satellite, which transmits TV to the U.S., disrupting the AMC 11's signal. Don't bother to check your calendar. May 23 is a Sunday, otherwise known as the day of the week when America watches Desperate Housewives. Will this out-of-control satellite ruin that Sunday's show, or will the People's Choice Award-winning drama triumph? Here's the technical stuff:
Communications company Intelsat said it lost control of the Galaxy 15 satellite on April 5, possibly because the satellite's systems were knocked out by a solar storm. Intelsat cannot remotely steer the satellite to remain in its orbit, so Galaxy 15 is creeping toward the adjacent path of another TV communications satellite that serves U.S. cable companies.
Galaxy 15 continues to receive and transmit satellite signals, and they will probably overlap and interfere with signals from the second satellite, known as AMC 11, if Galaxy 15 drifts into its orbit as expected around May 23, according to the two satellite companies.
AMC 11 receives digital programming from cable television channels and transmits it to all U.S. cable systems from its orbit 22,000 miles (36,000 kilometers) above the equator, SES World Skies said. It operates on the same frequencies as Galaxy 15.
"That fact means that there is likely to be some kind of interference," Yves Feltes, a spokesman for AMC 11 owner SES World Skies, told The Associated Press. "Our aim is to bring any interference down to zero."
Update: It's worse than we thought, if that's even possible. Commenter FrogLeg points out the satellite interruption could come during nerd Christmas--the series finale of Lost.
This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.
We want to hear what you think about this article. Submit a letter to the editor or write to email@example.com.