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Drifting Satellite Could Knock Out Cable TV 217

Posted by kdawson
from the chance-of-heavy-snow dept.
A few days back we discussed some of the problems caused by the demise of Intelsat's Galaxy 15, including possible degradation of GPS and its WAAS refinement. Now reader crimeandpunishment writes in with another damage scenario, one which could affect vastly more people — interference with cable TV programming across the US. "A TV communications satellite is drifting out of control thousands of miles above the Earth, threatening to wander into another satellite's orbit... Galaxy 15 continues to receive and transmit satellite signals, and they will probably interfere with the second satellite, known as AMC 11, if Galaxy 15 drifts into its orbit as expected around May 23... [A spokesman] said one option would be using AMC 11's propulsion system to shift that satellite about 60 miles (100 kilometers) away to an orbit that's still within its carefully prescribed 'orbital box' but as far away as possible from Galaxy 15."
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Drifting Satellite Could Knock Out Cable TV

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  • Cable? (Score:5, Funny)

    by lymond01 (314120) on Tuesday May 11, 2010 @06:05PM (#32175674)

    Okay. Even I know that you can't run a cable from a satellite to my house. This whole article is fake.

    And while I'm on the Internets, I'd like to bring up the issue about birth certificates again...

    • Could this be ... the first ... Satellite fight? That would be even better than fighting robots.

      First they could cross the streams [imdb.com] of their satellite signals. Then a few thruster jabs. And then, what we've all been waiting for, full contact satellite warfare! Take that, SkyNET!
      • Re:Satellite Fight! (Score:5, Informative)

        by mangu (126918) on Tuesday May 11, 2010 @07:09PM (#32176358)

        Could this be ... the first ... Satellite fight?

        Nope, happens all the time. There's a bunch of derelict satellites up there and we must maneuver the operating satellites to get out of their path.

        The problem with AMC-11 is that Galaxy-15 failed just recently and its transponders are still operating. Normally they shut down the transponders when a satellite fails, but in this case the command decoder itself seems to have failed, so Galaxy-15 is not accepting any commands.

        Given enough time, the on-board computer will take over and shut down the transponders. This will happen automatically when the sun and earth sensors detect the orbit has deviated too much from the nominal conditions.

        • Re:Satellite Fight! (Score:5, Interesting)

          by blair1q (305137) on Tuesday May 11, 2010 @07:23PM (#32176514) Journal

          What's really bizarre is that it's still operating.

          Usually when a satellite fails to communicate properly with its ground control system, after a set period of time it assumes something is wrong and goes into Safe Mode. In Safe Mode it would shut off everything except a basic command and control system and the comms needed to get commands from the ground. It hasn't done that.

          The big question is, why not?

          • Could it be that some cranky old bastid has taken control of the satellite, and he's going to use it to knock out satellite television? If so, he deserves some kind of a medal.

          • by dimeglio (456244)

            Usually, I believe is the key word here. Maybe they left in a large margin of error. All things considered, the chance of two satellites colliding is astronomically minute. If you would take all the billiard balls on a table in a break triangle and pretend gravity reverses for them only until they reach geostationary orbit, they would end-up about 20 meters apart from each other. Quite a big distance, yet they started very close to each other.

        • by Seedy2 (126078)

          Someone with a really big telescope should swing it over that way and see if there is a BSOD, too bad they don't have a remote power cycle switch; it would save someone from having to drive out and reboot the thing.

    • Comcast sports net Chicago HD is fiber and D*, E* only. Only sd ver of it is non a NON DISH or Directv sat.

      Same thing for CSN + / ALT.

  • by cosm (1072588) <thecosm3@gmail . c om> on Tuesday May 11, 2010 @06:06PM (#32175676)
    In other news, on May 23, experts are predicting the possibility of a 10 point jump in the average US citizen's IQ.
    • Re:Demographics (Score:5, Informative)

      by LostCluster (625375) * on Tuesday May 11, 2010 @06:14PM (#32175786)

      List of tenants on the threatened bird, as I mentioned yesterday. [lyngsat.com]

      While this is going to take out almost all of the East Coast feeds of MTV Networks... it's also going to down Discovery Networks and C-SPAN too.

    • by ls671 (1122017) *

      > In other news, on May 23, experts are predicting the possibility of a
      > 10 point jump in the average US citizen's IQ.

      And massive riots in every city caused by too many people suddenly waking up to the realty and revolting against the system.

      This is clearly a matter of national security. We have to act now to prevent this.

    • by Shakrai (717556) *

      In other news, on May 23, experts are predicting the possibility of a 10 point jump in the average US citizen's IQ.

      Yes. But the problem is that once they gain those points they'll be smart enough to realize that you can receive American Idol and Survivor for free from digital over the air broadcasts. They will use their new found IQ points to install a spiffy looking antenna, after which the IQ gains will be negated.

      • you can receive American Idol and Survivor for free from digital over the air broadcasts

        ... and then we'll have the cable guys lining up for a bailout.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday May 11, 2010 @06:07PM (#32175690)

    This would be a complete disaster for Americans. They might have to resort to reading, playing board games, or even going outside and playing some sports. Shit, they might even get some exercise.

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by eln (21727)
      Don't be absurd. Other than DVD rentals and Internet usage increasing, this won't affect anything.
    • by Kenshin (43036)

      Don't worry, there's always Twitter.

    • by blair1q (305137)

      Or we could spend our time training to attack....where were you from again?

    • That's absurd! By the time the TV starts working again, I'll have come back from McDonald's with my Double McLard with cheese with a super-sized bag of Freedom Fries. Won't even miss it.

    • by Rick17JJ (744063)
      I use an old fashioned rabbit ears antenna for my TV reception. I have never had cable (or a satellite dish either). I get 6 analog channels on my old mid-1990s 13-inch television set. Six of the channels are converted back to analog form as they pass through the old mountain top translator station between here and Phoenix. The repeater station was not required to make the digital conversion. When using a converter box, I get 1 digital channel instead of the 6 analog channels.

      On one of those channels, I on
    • by hedwards (940851)
      Don't be absurd, what this means is that all Cable companies will be reduced to the same standard of care was Comcast. Comcast will then rebrand itself as being 10 years ahead of the others.
  • by Anrego (830717) * on Tuesday May 11, 2010 @06:08PM (#32175698)

    Is that now all the people who spend their time watching reality TV all day will be out in public interacting with others..

    It's like myspace and facebook.. evil .. but at least contained! Better than the anglefire/geocities days!

    And yeah.. this is totally a troll.. but it's Tuesday and I just got back from work and I really need to make something for dinner but I don't have anything and I'm too lazy to go to the store..

    • > Is that now all the people who spend their time watching reality TV all day
      > will be out in public interacting with others..

      Not necessarily. It may just lead to an increase in the rate of murder, divorce, and child abuse.

      • by Scaba (183684)

        Not necessarily. It may just lead to an increase in the rate of murder, divorce, and child abuse.

        Well, someone has to keep us entertained.

    • Pizza Hut [pizzahut.com]

      Dominos [dominos.com]

      Papa John's [papajohns.com]

      Based strictly on technology, I'd go with Dominos...

  • ham radio (Score:4, Funny)

    by FuckingNickName (1362625) on Tuesday May 11, 2010 @06:09PM (#32175714) Journal

    Stories like this make me happy to be a ham. I don't need a complex infrastructure and global political stability to communicate with anyone, woohoo!

    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      by Yvan256 (722131)

      Yeah but you're always watching your back because of wolves. Must be stressful.

    • Re:ham radio (Score:4, Interesting)

      by ls671 (1122017) * on Tuesday May 11, 2010 @06:49PM (#32176148) Homepage

      Funny you mention this, I have thought of buying a ham radio for that very reason. I already have deep cycle batteries and a generator ;-))

      We could even run tcp/ip over ham radio and set up an emergency network to enable data transfer in case the internet becomes unavailable ! :

      http://www.febo.com/hamdocs/intronos.html [febo.com]

    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      Stories like this make me happy to be a ham. I don't need a complex infrastructure and global political stability to communicate with anyone, woohoo!

      Except for band allocations and licensing. Even if you operate as a 'pirate' you have to rely upon repeaters, which even if you set up illegal repeaters you've got to worry about access to a suitable location. For DX you've got to worry about sun spot cycles and/or the time of day and ionosphere conditions. Even if everything is in YOUR favor, you've still got to rely upon someone at the other end having access to equipment to receive and/or transmit back. I'm lucky enough to live near a Ham Radio Outlet wh

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        For DX you've got to worry about sun spot cycles and/or the time of day and ionosphere conditions.

        Over the past few thousand years, these have all been more predictable than geopolitics.

        I can walk a few hundred yards from almost anywhere to a convenience store, Wal-mart, etc. and buy a pay as you go cell phone for $50 USD

        Indeed. And you'd be reasonable to choose it today. Since the Great War was the war to end all wars, you'll always be able to choose it.

    • Stories like this make me happy to be a ham. I don't need a complex infrastructure and global political stability to communicate with anyone, woohoo!

      FuckingNickName de KJ6BSO pse kn

  • by LostCluster (625375) * on Tuesday May 11, 2010 @06:11PM (#32175742)

    AMC-11 (the threatened satellite) is a major backbone in the pay TV infrastructure for the Eastern USA. What that means, is that channels like MTV, VH1, G4, NESN, and many more use AMC-11 to get the content from their master control to your local cable system, DirecTV, and Dish in order for them to replicate the signal on their platform. If AMC-11 is jammed, ALL platforms will lose the affected channels... and there's no one place in space with enough free space to hold them all, so relocating for a temp outage isn't really an option.

  • If only we had... (Score:2, Interesting)

    by Daswolfen (1277224)

    A reusable space vehicle which could be launched to retrieve or repair the satellite...

    • by peragrin (659227)

      it's amazing that the airforce has one up there right now.

    • Re:If only we had... (Score:4, Interesting)

      by MichaelSmith (789609) on Tuesday May 11, 2010 @06:24PM (#32175882) Homepage Journal

      A reusable space vehicle which could be launched to retrieve or repair the satellite...

      ...which could fly to geosynchronous orbit. Apollo would have been the ideal vehicle for the job because it had legs in the sense that you could send it practically anywhere and it could aerobrake to a safe landing. A flight to mars would not have been out of the question and an asteroid mission was seriously discussed.

      The shuttle was designed for low earth orbit and could only fly there.

      • We don't need a manned mission to get rid of this wayward and useless piece of former satellite space junk... we just need to blast it out of the path it's going to some other one.
        • We don't need a manned mission to get rid of this wayward and useless piece of former satellite space junk... we just need to blast it out of the path it's going to some other one.

          Yup, because an expanding cloud of space shrapnel with orbital velocities is so much better than a single satellite with a known orbit.

          • by GIL_Dude (850471)
            Blast can also mean "burn" as in a rocket. Not that you are wrong at all - if the GP meant blast in the "blow it up" sense that would be really bad. But if he meant "a 4 second blast on the rocket engine or thruster" - then, as long as they set that burn sequence up to either deorbit the satellite or put it in an orbit that won't intersect any useful satellite's orbit for a long, long time it should be good.
            • by Obfuscant (592200)
              - if the GP meant blast in the "blow it up" sense that would be really bad.

              Is this really /., where nerds hang out? Everyone knows that a space blaster causes a complete disintegration of the object/person being blasted, no shrapnel.

        • we just need to blast it out of the path it's going to some other one.

          I'm not to fond of memes but in this case; What could possibly go wrong?

      • Apollo would have been the ideal vehicle for the job because it had legs in the sense that you could send it practically anywhere and it could aerobrake to a safe landing.

        Well, except for the "retrieval" part. And the "repair" part, without the Canadarm, would probably be kinda tricky, too.

        But at least the Apollo capsule could have gotten astronauts there and humans can be pretty ingenious...

        Just out of curiosity, I understand the Shuttle is not designed to go to Geosynchronous orbit. Is it merely a matter of thrust that keeps it Low-Earth Orbit or are there other issues as well?

        • Shuttle can't reach Geosynchronous orbit... actually, if wiki is correct it only gets to around 1% of the necessary altitude:

          Shuttle orbit: 380 km (for space station missions)
          Geosynchronous orbit: 35,786 km

          • Shuttle can't reach Geosynchronous orbit... actually, if wiki is correct it only gets to around 1% of the necessary altitude:

            Yeah though in energy terms it is much more than 1%, so the shuttle is closer than that. The real problem is that the shuttle was designed with so many shaved tolerances than it can really only operate in LEO.

          • Actually, I think it's highest was 360 miles (594 kilometers) on STS-82 [nasa.gov].

            But again, is it just the Shuttle's inability to get there (ie, it can't carry enough fuel to get up there and get back)? Or is there more (eg radiation shielding, etc.)?

        • The shuttle is much more specialized than most vehicles out there. It can pull fewer G's than a 747. Its heat shield can barely cope with a return from low earth orbit, once it didn't. I am sure a way could be found to get it to GSO, but you could never get it back. Heating could be a problem while in orbit because the shuttle was designed to spend half its time in shadow.

    • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

      by Anonymous Coward

      A reusable space vehicle which could be launched to retrieve or repair the satellite...

      For the record, the space shuttle gets just over 250 miles altitude. [wolframalpha.com] The satellite in question is at an altitude of about 22,236 miles. [wikipedia.org]

      The amount of fuel needed to transit the space shuttle between these orbits is prohibitive. It was never designed for general purpose satellite repair; it was just a demo.

    • by sznupi (719324)

      A reusable space vehicle which would be able to do that with GEO satellites (they are among the biggest ones), while also getting to their orbit and being able to deorbit with the payload, would be prohibitively expensive. Much more than Shuttle or Buran. So maybe that's why we don't have one...

      If you really want to, bulding the satellite inside a reentry capsule would be most likely cheaper...but still pointless. Requiring higher launch mass & more powerful rockets - for mass of the reentry structure..

    • by blair1q (305137) on Tuesday May 11, 2010 @07:39PM (#32176728) Journal

      Maybe we could put a 100-ton concrete dome over it...

    • by cgenman (325138)

      Anything you could launch up there to get at or repair the satellite would be inherently more expensive to launch than replacing the satellite. The main cost is the launch.

      Now, something permanently up in space that could maneuver other satellites would be very helpful. But unless it's going to have enough maneuvering fuel to change orbits repeatedly, you'd have to have some way of moving other satellites by hitting them with something, such as lasers. Maybe a laser-reactive outer coating that could prov

  • by StefanJ (88986) on Tuesday May 11, 2010 @06:13PM (#32175774) Homepage Journal

    Without the 8 or so hours a day that cable channels broadcast mindless infomercials, retail activity in the U.S. will grind to a halt.

    Meanwhile, I'll be sitting pretty with crystal clear reception of the two dozen or so locally broadcast channels, thanks to the home brew dipole antenna I made with plans from MAKE magazine [makezine.com].

    Cut the coax!

    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by LostCluster (625375) *
      Only problem is that those local channels use satellites to get the network and syndicated programs they air.
      • by TubeSteak (669689)

        Only problem is that those local channels use satellites to get the network and syndicated programs they air.

        Time to test their backup plans.
        They do have a backup... right?

        • Not everybody. Small networks like MTV Jamz most likely are lucky to have their main slot, nevermind the backup. And most "backup plans" exist in the form of pre-empt rights on other birds which just causes the trouble to head downhill in the food chain.

        • A lot of the coverage of the Galaxy IV failure during expanded versions of the nightly newscasts was in part because Galaxy IV customers used pre-empt rights to other feeds, leaving syndicated shows that air during the 7p hour unable to get to stations in time.

  • by Sir_Lewk (967686) <sirlewk@gm a i l . com> on Tuesday May 11, 2010 @06:18PM (#32175830)

    How many other slashdotters are actually rooting for Galaxy 15? The thought of it possibly knocking about cable television is just far too amusing to me (unlike cable television ;).

    • by joelsanda (619660)
      Yep. I can devote the time I gain from not watching television to listen to friends and family grouse about their ability to not watch television. Hell, this may make things a bit quieter for me, given how many people I know would lose what appears to be their only readily available topic of conversation!
    • I am. We only turn the TV on at about 10PM, and then only to watch Star Trek TNG or Discovery channel. Personally I think this is a plot by Apple to get more people to buy iPads...
    • *has to say it*

      Is it time for a Galaxy Quest [imdb.com]?

    • by mirix (1649853)

      Apart from a few shows I download on occasion, I'd be completely oblivious to the fact that TV is down. Bring it on.

      Now if it were to interrupt the internet, that would be a different story.

    • I think it would make a great Reality TV show! Winning Sattelite gets a pass on getting kicked out of orbit this week!

  • by Nethemas the Great (909900) on Tuesday May 11, 2010 @06:29PM (#32175940)
    make some progress on the orbital debris problem. Nothing like taking away an American's television to spur the democracy into action.
  • AMC 11 (Score:2, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward
  • A TV communications satellite is drifting out of control thousands of miles above the Earth, threatening to wander into another satellite's orbit...

    Wait! I've seen this US Air Force TV commercial.
    Can't they just "launch the avoidance maneuver"?

    • The problem is not that the satellite is being hit by anything, but that a satellite that doesn't belong anywhere near it with its transmitters at full power is going to drift into the way, potentially jamming the signals that do belong there.
      • by jmorris42 (1458) *

        > ..its transmitters at full power..

        Maybe I'm just an idiot and missing something obvious but something about this story has bothered me for days. This bird is a bent pipe design and the transceiver is still fully functional, right? It is (re)transmitting on the same frequencies as AMC11, otherwise we wouldn't have a problem. Sounds simple enough, turn off AMC11's outputs, redirect the uplink for a few days and just let G15 transmit until it moves far enough away for ground stations to pick out the tw

    • May the Directv ones can they use the same boeing sats that the air force has in the lunch pipe line.

  • If the net is up, I'm cool with these things bashing into each other.

  • Easy solution.
  • Now reader crimeandpunishment writes in with another damage scenario, one which could affect vastly more people — interference with cable TV programming across the US

    Rogue satellites got you down? BitTorrent.

  • Am I the only one expecting a spike in accidental deaths in the event of a widespread cable tv outage?
  • by PPH (736903)

    A drifting satellite knocking out my cable? I doubt it. I've got underground utilities. That would have to be one mighty low orbit.

"Out of register space (ugh)" -- vi

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