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Commercial satellites affected by possible power glitches
Posted: Thu, Sep 27, 2001, 5:52 PM ET (2152 GMT)
Boeing 702 satellite illustration Problems with two popular families of commercial communication satellites could cause problems for nearly 20 such spacecraft currently in orbit, according to reports published Thursday. SPACE.com reported that the PanAmSat PAS-7 suffered an apparent short circuit of its solar cells after emerging from an eclipse earlier this month. That short circuit caused a "sharp, and apparently permanent, loss of power", according to the report. Loral announced earlier this year that 11 of its FS 1300 spacecraft, including PAS-7, could be affected by a short circuit, but PAS-7 is the first report of such a problem. Meanwhile, officials with Boeing confirmed that the solar arrays on its 702 series of communication satellites will degrade more than originally planned. The arrays were designed to generate 15,000 watts after 15 years in orbit, but will instead generate no more than 12,000 watts. Boeing linked the problem to concentrators used to reflect additional sunlight on the arrays; those concentrators will be replaced in the future with additional solar cells. There are six 702-series spacecraft in orbit, two of which are used by XM Satellite Radio. Shares in XM dropped by 30 percent Thursday after an investment analyst published a note about the satellite problem. Company officials issued a press release Thursday saying that the problem will not affect the rollout of their satellite radio service, but in the long run could force them to replace the satellites earlier than planned.
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