Intelsat 29e Failure Tied to External Event

An investigation has pinpointed a space weather event or a micrometeroid strike as the most likely cause of the total failure of the Intelsat 29e communications satellite in April, Spaceflightnow reports.

“The failure review board concluded that the anomaly was either caused by a harness flaw in conjunction with an electrostatic discharge event related to solar weather activity, or the impact of a micrometeoroid,” Intelsat said in a discussion document released Tuesday in conjunction with the company’s second quarter financial numbers.

The board formed to investigate the Intelsat 29e failure included members from Boeing, which built the spacecraft, Intelsat and external independent experts.

Intelsat 29e was launched Jan. 27, 2016, aboard an Ariane 5 rocket from French Guiana for a planned 15-year mission. Based on the Boeing 702MP satellite design, Intelsat 29e was positioned in geostationary orbit at 50 degrees west longitude, where its thrusters kept the satellite parked over the same geographic region, with the spacecraft’s orbital velocity matching the rate of Earth’s rotation.

Intelsat reported the conclusions of the board when reporting its second quarter financial results.

“We recognized an impairment charge of $381.6 million during the three months ended June 30, 2019 relating to the failure of Intelsat 29e,” the company said in a press release.

“The impairment charge consisted of approximately $377.9 million related to the write-off of the carrying value of the satellite and associated deferred satellite performance incentive obligations,and approximately $3.7 million related to prepaid regulatory fees,” the statement added.