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Title: Amc-14  
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Subject: SES World Skies, AMC-21, 2008 in spaceflight, THEOS (satellite), Inmarsat-4 F3
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Mission type Communication
Operator SES Americom
COSPAR ID 2008-011A
Mission duration 15 years (planned)
Spacecraft properties
Bus A2100
Manufacturer Lockheed Martin
Start of mission
Launch date 14 March 2008, 23:18:55 (2008-03-14T23:18:55Z) UTC
Rocket Proton-M/Briz-M
Launch site Baikonur 200/39
Contractor ILS
Orbital parameters
Reference system Geocentric
Regime Geostationary
Longitude 61.5° West (planned)
34.8° East (operational)
Perigee 35,615.9 kilometres (22,130.7 mi)
Apogee 35,971.8 kilometres (22,351.8 mi)
Inclination 13.1 degrees[1]
0 degrees planned

AMC-14 is a communications satellite initially owned by SES Americom which was to have been placed in geostationary orbit, following launch by a Proton rocket. Built by Lockheed Martin and based on the A2100 satellite bus, AMC-14 was to have been located at 61.5° west longitude and would have been used for DISH Network service. The satellite was placed in an unusable orbit, following a malfunction with the Briz-M upper stage of the Proton rocket.

The satellite has been maneuvered to reach a geosynchronous orbit, during a period of more than 6 months, and is now near 35° East and in an inclined orbit.[2]

It was launched atop a Proton-M/Briz-M rocket at 23:18:55 GMT on 14 March 2008, from LC-200/39 at the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan.


AMC-14 is based on the A2100AX platform, and included 32 Ku-band transponders which would have provided 24 MHz of bandwidth each. The spacecraft antenna were originally designed to operate over either of two orbital arcs: 61.5°W to 77°W or 110°W to 148°W. AMC-14 carries an active phased array demonstration payload that allows coverage to be reshaped on orbit.[1]

Launch anomaly

An anomaly occurred during the second burn of the Briz-M upper stage.[3] As a result, the satellite failed to reach the planned orbit. The Russian commission investigating the anomaly determined the cause to be a rupture of the gas duct between the gas generator and the propellant pump turbine in the Briz M main engine, which caused the upper stage engine to shut down two minutes early.[4] AMC-14 was the 36th A2100 spacecraft and was expected to provide more than 15 years of service life. SES and Lockheed Martin explored ways to attempt to bring the functioning satellite into its correct orbital position, and subsequently began attempting to move the satellite into geosynchronous orbit by means of a lunar flyby (as done a decade earlier with HGS-1). In April 2008, it was announced that this had been abandoned after it was discovered that Boeing held a patent[5] on the trajectory that would be required.[6] At the time, a lawsuit was ongoing between SES and Boeing, and Boeing refused to allow the trajectory to be used unless SES dropped its case.[6] Another company has expressed interest in purchasing the satellite, however SES have begun procedures to expedite the satellite's immediate de-orbit.[6] While it is expected that the patent would not stand up to legal challenge, SES intend to de-orbit the spacecraft in order to collect the insurance payout.[6] If this attempt had been successful, the extra use of fuel needed to correct the orbital error would have significantly reduced AMC-14's originally expected service life of 15 years to just four.[7][8][9]

Satellite's fate

SES Americom told its insurers that the AMC-14 is a total loss because it is in the wrong orbit and cannot be moved into correct orbit, according to Thomson Financial. The satellite is fully insured for about $150 million, so SES won't incur a loss. Officials said they evaluated several options for recovering the marooned satellite. Saving AMC 14 would have used much of the satellite's operational maneuvering propellant, significantly reducing its useful life from the 15-year expectation before launch.[10]

On 23 April 2008, it was reported that SES was in talks with an United States Department of Defense agency, presumably the National Reconnaissance Office which is the agency which operates satellites for the DoD, over purchasing the satellite.[11] It is understood that several other bids, including one from Echostar, have been received. Most of the commercial companies are intending to use the Lunar flyby trajectory option to correct the orbital inclination of the satellite, while the US DoD plan to leave the satellite in an inclined orbit.[11] It is understood that SES prefers the DoD bid, as they do not want a customer to prove to insurers that the lunar flyby option would have resulted in a commercially viable service life.[11] There are some concerns over the legality of a purchase by the US Government, under the 1998 Commercial Space Act.[12]

In anticipation of the US Government’s offer being viewed as illegal an independent European/Asian investment group made a counteroffer to the insurers which called for a minimum upfront cash payment of US$15 million with the intention of returning the satellite to a geosynchronous orbit using the lunar flyby mission and thereafter providing commercial services. Negotiations were slow to start in spite of the alternative $10M purchase proposal from the US Government which was 33% lower than the improved offer from the European/Asian investment group.

The first signs of an orbital adjustment maneuver became evident one day after SES announced it was in sales negotiations on 24 April 2008 when its perigee rose by about 35 mi (56 km) to 483 mi (777 km) along with a slight rise in apogee to 35572 km.[13] Also, for comparison, at the time Inclination was 48.989, Eccentricity was 0.708, and it had an orbital time of 638.12 min. As of 6 August, AMC-14 orbit is vastly different. Figures for perigee (periapsis), apogee (apoapsis) and Inclination are given in the info box at the beginning of this article, Inclination has dropped to 17.7 and Eccentricity has decreased to 0.199.[1]

As of January 29, 2009, after more than 6 months of low-thrust maneuvering, AMC-14 has finally reached an inclined (13.1°) geosynchronous orbit at 34.8°East[1][14] under US DoD ownership.[15]

See also


  1. ^ a b c d AMC-14 Satellite details 2008-011A NORAD 32708, REAL TIME SATELLITE TRACKING
  2. ^
  3. ^
  4. ^
  5. ^ U.S. Patent 6,116,545
  6. ^ a b c d
  7. ^
  8. ^
  9. ^
  10. ^
  11. ^ a b c
  12. ^ H.R. 1702, The Commercial Space Act of 1997, Congressional Budget Office
  13. ^
  14. ^ (subscription required)
  15. ^ Gunter's Space Page AMC-14
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