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The Once and Future Moon

Can We Repurpose Space Assets?

19 Mar 2012, 10:02 UTC
Can We Repurpose Space Assets?
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The Russians launched a communications satellite, the Astrium Express-AM4, in August 2011. After a failure in its Proton launch vehicle (resulting in loss of contact and control), it was presumed lost. However, it survived and is trapped in a high-inclination orbit – a 20,000 by 650 km elliptical orbit (inclined 52° from the equator). Forcing [...]

Express-AM4: total loss or new purpose?
The Russians launched a communications satellite, the Astrium Express-AM4, in August 2011. After a failure in its Proton launch vehicle (resulting in loss of contact and control), it was presumed lost. However, it survived and is trapped in a high-inclination orbit – a 20,000 by 650 km elliptical orbit (inclined 52° from the equator). Forcing it to operational geosynchronous (GEO) orbit would take most of its fuel, leaving the satellite with a very limited useful lifetime. The satellite was insured and payment has been collected on the mishap of the launch but the Russians have yet to decide on what to do with this wayward satellite circling Earth in the “wrong” orbit. Recently they indicated that there is enough fuel to conduct a controlled re-entry and descent, guiding the satellite to a safe, watery grave somewhere in one ...

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