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Wednesday, May 11, 2011

South Africa suffers set back on C-band satellite


Like Nigeria, the South African satellite industry, being operated by Intelsat has suffered set back with the collapse of its C-band from the orbit.

The C band is usually a description of certain portions of the electromagnetic spectrum, including wavelengths of microwaves that are used for long-distance radio telecommunications.

The Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE) version of C-band is known to be slight in variations; containing frequency ranges that are used for many satellite communications transmissions, some Wi-Fi devices, some cordless telephones, and some weather radar systems.

Expert noted that for satellite communications, the microwave frequencies of the C-band perform better under adverse weather conditions in comparison with Ku band (11.2 GHz to 14.5 GHz) microwave frequencies, which are used by another large set of communication satellites.

Intelsat reported that one of its two principal reflector antennas on the just-launched New Dawn telecommunications satellite for South Africa failed to deploy in orbit and that release of the other antenna will await attempts to force the first one to come back to life.

ITRealms Online recalls that the Intelsat New Dawn satellite was placed into geostationary transfer orbit April 22 by European Ariane 5 ECA rocket. Since then, the satellite’s manufacturer, Orbital Sciences Corp. of Dulles, Va., has been overseeing the transfer of the satellite from the point of release by the rocket to its test location, at 23.1 degrees east longitude in geostationary orbit.

The satellite’s final operating location is 32.8 degrees east, where it is scheduled to serve mainly an African audience.

Orbital Science had informed Intelsat that the C-band reflector’s ejection-release mechanism has functioned, releasing a series of pins that hold the antenna close to the satellite’s body for launch, but stressed that other data, including temperature readings from the satellite, have confirmed that the reflector remains stuck in place.

Expert said that though this was South Africa’s first attempt to launch a satellite communications platform and its failure means that that country must return to the drawing board if it must sustain its adventure in space.

Equally, like Nigeria which lost its Nigcomsat 1, 18-month after launch, South Africa may have to start anew, even as South Africa has no back up satellite.

However, Nigcomsat 1 replacement (NigComSAT 1R) is due for launch in the last quarter of 2011, just as talks are on for two back up satellites; that is Nigcomsat 2 and 3, which would be built a few months after the launch of Nigcomsat 1R.

Reacting to the development the Intelsat spokeswoman, Dianne J. VanBeber was quoted as saying that ground teams have introduced series of exercises as antidotes including one tagged “rock n’ roll,” which consists of shaking the satellite, while another comprising the exposure of the stuck antenna to heat from the sun, and alternatively exposing the antenna to cold, all in an attempt to force deployment.

This, VanBeber also pointed has caused delay in the release of Intelsat’s Ku-band reflector, whereas unblocking attempts on the C-band reflector continues.

Additionally, Intelsat said, the satellite has 28 C-band and 24 Ku-band transponders when measured in 36-megahertz equivalents, stressing that this is aside from the blocked C-band reflector, the satellite is functioning normally.

Intelsat New Dawn is owned by a joint venture of Luxembourg- and Washington-based Intelsat and Convergence Partners of South Africa. Valued at $250 million including construction, launch and insurance, Intelsat New Dawn is intended to replace Intelsat’s Galaxy 11 satellite at 32.8 degrees east. Intelsat estimates that Galaxy 11 will remain operational until April 2015.

Remmy Nweke
ITREALMS Online ... delivering news for ICT4D

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