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Russian communications satellite disabled
Posted: Fri, Mar 31, 2006, 2:02 PM ET (1902 GMT)
A Russian communications satellite mysteriously malfunctioned earlier this week, leading some to suggest that the spacecraft was struck by a micrometeoroid or a piece of orbital debris. The Express-AM11 satellite suffered what its operator, the Russian Satellite Communications Corporation (RSCC), called a "sudden external impact" early on March 29. The impact caused the loss of fluid used by the spacecraft's thermal control system. The spacecraft also temporarily lost attitude control, and while engineers were able to restore the spacecraft's attitude temperatures inside the spacecraft rose to critical levels, forcing RSCC to boost the spacecraft into a disposal spacecraft before control of the spacecraft was permanently lost. RSCC has shifted the customers of Express-AM11, primarily TV and radio broadcasting services, to the company's other satellites. The spacecraft, built by Russian manufacturer NPO PM with a communications payload provided by Alcatel, had been launched less than two years ago into geosynchronous orbit at 96.5 degrees east.
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