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DirecTV Satellite Could Explode Due To Faulty Batteries: Why Is It Dangerous?
Scientists and space researchers have constantly worried about the piling man-made debris in space. The mounting number of satellites for communication, surveillance, and other purposes has increased the number of dead satellites, which further pose a risk for functioning ones. Now, a DirecTV satellite poses the same risk of explosion, jeopardizing other satellites.
DirecTV Satellite Battery Issues
DirecTV is owned by American telecom provider AT&T and is currently a threat. The satellite needs to be removed within a month from the geostationary orbit so it doesn't damage other satellites if it explodes. The satellite, namely Spaceway-1 is a Boeing 702HP model, could explode due to battery issues that began manifesting in December.
SpaceNews reports that DirecTV explained in an FCC filing that an anomaly caused "significant and irreversible thermal damage" to the satellite's batteries. DirecTV has already switched off the batteries and is operating the Spaceway-1 satellite using power from the solar panels. But there's a problem here.
The satellite is expected to pass through the Earth's shadow in late February and solar panels will be of no use then. The satellite will again need to rely on the swelling batteries, a major risk factor. Hence, DirecTV will need to send the satellite 300km above the geostationary orbit, before February 25. This is the place where dying satellites are sent.
DirecTV Satellite Risk
All companies and agencies operating satellites worldwide are required to dispose of their satellites' remaining fuel. This helps to reduce the risk of explosion. In the case of DirecTV, the company has asked for a waiver as it doesn't have enough time to dump its fuel, a process that generally takes two-three months for satellites sized like Spaceway-1.
"The risk of a catastrophic battery failure makes it urgent that Spaceway-1 be fully de-orbited and decommissioned prior to the February 25th start of eclipse season," the company said in a statement.
Moreover, the DirecTV satellite was scheduled to continue service until 2025. So one can imagine the amount of fuel running on the satellite. However, sending the Spaceway-1 satellite to the dump yard is much better than having it explode in geostationary orbit, where most of the telecommunication satellites are.
Mounting Space Debris: What’s The Solution?
The increasing space debris can have a colliding effect on us on Earth. Scientists call it the Kessler Syndrome, where debris creates more debris and the process goes on. In space, any debris larger than 1cm can damage or destroy a satellite, which further leads to communication disruption and more debris.
To make space travel and exploration safer, the European Space Agency has commissioned the world's first space debris removal program. Moreover, companies like SpaceX have come up with reusable rockets and launch vehicles, which have further aided in protecting the environment.
Coming back to DirecTV, SpaceNews notes that subscribers needn't worry about the satellite explosion. Customers will unlikely be affected since the Spaceway-1 was a backup satellite.