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SES’ AMC 9 Slowly Drifting out of Orbit

Following an anomaly that occurred in late June 2017, SES’ AMC 9 satellite is drifting away from a fully synchronous orbit at a rate just under
0.2° per day. The company first noticed the anomaly on June 17, and immediately began the process of transferring its customers to alternative capacity, which is still underway. Luckily the company has a large fleet and, therefore, can provide alternatives.

However, SES and Thales Alenia Space, the satellite’s manufacturer, have yet to identify the root cause of the anomaly, which may be connected to the satellite being nudged out of orbit. It remains to be seen whether SES will be able to re-establish a connection. If AMC 9 cannot be recovered, the financial impact on the company’s revenue could be up to €20 million (USD 22.7 million), the company said in a statement.

AMC 9 occupies a relatively eccentric geostationary orbit (GEO), which limits the likelihood of it crossing paths with another asset. Nonetheless, SES has switched off AMC 9’s payload to ensure it does not interfere with signals from other satellites nearby. The company is meticulously observing the satellite and keeping in touch with owners of other assets in the neighborhood to prevent any further incidents. As yet, SES has not adjusted its deployment plan for future satellites. Further fleet planning can only kick in when the exact status of AMC 9 is known. AMC 9 was already reaching the end of its nominal 15-year lifespan, having been launched back in 2003. It carries 24 Ku-band and 24 C-band transponders and provides coverage over the United States and Mexico.

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