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Satellite Slip Up Causes Media Mayhem

April 1st, 2006 at 07:51am

On Thursday afternoon at about 5:55 (GMT+11) Optus Satellite Control lost communications with the aging Optus Satellite B1 during routine orbital positional adjustment. This caused ABC relay stations, Macquarie Regional Radioworks stations, Southern Cross Syndication services, and New Zealand’s main Pay TV service, Sky Television, to stop broadcasting, along with a handful of other Australian TV stations.

Apparently Optus B1 is getting a bit long in the tooth, and has had previous failures, including a complete failure of the main guidance system, which means it is now operating on the backup system, it is also being used well in excess of its original specifications. It was supposed to be replaced by the new Optus D1 satellite late last year, but this has been postponed until at least the middle of this year…assuming B1 lasts that long.

Thankfully Optus regained control of B1, but when they did it was broadcasting in the wrong direction, and they had to wait for it to recharge after the northern hemisphere solar exclipse before they could do anything about it. B1 was back online for its users at 7:17am Friday (GMT+11).

I don’t know what 2CC did about it before midnight as I wasn’t listening, but I would like to congratulate them on not giving up and playing automated music, and instead using the 2UE webstream with a panel operator playing local ads and promos. It did sound a bit rough around the edges, but overall they did a fantastic job under the conditions. I gather that a number of other stations around the nation did similar things with panel operators and webstreams, although there were a few who just went into automated music mode, or played a webstream with the streamer’s ads and all.

Also congratulations to the ABC for replacing some of their C1 services with the lost B1 services so that relays could be back on-air by 2am (GMT+11).

For those interested, the good people over at Usenet Aus.Radio.Broadcast have a good summary of what happened, and what affected stations did.

Heres hoping that D1 is up there soon to relieve the aging and slowly failing B1, as the longer B1 is left up there in its semi working state, the more of these outages we are going to experience, and eventually, we might have a complete failure.


Entry Filed under: General News,TV/Radio/Media

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  • 1. heatseeker  |  April 1st, 2006 at 10:46 am

    See, we can blame the ABC funding cuts for all of this!

    Not only did they have one of the Bananas in Pyjamas running the sattelite communications, but it appears B2 has been made redundant, and his teamwork could have made all the difference in this case!

    And, I’m not sure, but I think that C1 and D1 are cheap foreign made Banana in Pyjama knockoffs, which only rubs slt in the wound!

  • 2. Chuck A. Spear  |  April 2nd, 2006 at 1:25 am

    Is it to obvious to mention JohnB1_B2?

  • 3. Samuel  |  April 2nd, 2006 at 1:51 am

    His name is John B1_B5, but yes I was also thinking about the similarity of numbers and “profession”, if a satellite has such a thing.

  • 4. John B1_B5  |  April 2nd, 2006 at 3:25 pm

    I’m afraid I had no input into the design of the Optus B1 satellite . I did however work for a short period at the former Ceduna Earth Station, which was locked on to the Intelsat 3 communications satellite over rhe Indian Ocean and provided telephone channels to the UK and Europe .

  • 5. Samuel  |  April 2nd, 2006 at 4:49 pm

    Was it a reliable service John?

  • 6. John B1_B5  |  April 3rd, 2006 at 12:25 pm

    It most certainly was Samuel ! In fact, it took the “lion’s share” of telephone conversations to the UK from the old undersea cable .

    In the early 1990’s, the Ceduna Earth Station was replaced be a smaller installation near Perth ( due to advancements in technology ) .
    The Earth Station was GIVEN to the University of Tasmania, and is now used as a Radio Telescope .

  • 7. Samuel  |  April 3rd, 2006 at 5:36 pm

    Ceduna Earth Station’s owners must have been feeling generous!

  • 8. John B1_B5  |  April 4th, 2006 at 12:26 am

    Well ….. they didn’t have much choice ….. nobody was prepared to PAY for it , and it would have cost money to demolish it .
    The original owners were OTC, but they became part of Telstra, so it was Telstra who gave it to the University of Tasmania .

  • 9. Samuel  |  April 4th, 2006 at 12:33 am

    It would be quite interesting if you were to go back there and report on the changes. I’ve often thought about how I would like to visit a house 10 or 20 years after leaving it and see how much different it is.

  • 10. John B1_B5  |  April 4th, 2006 at 7:51 am

    I intend to do just that some day . As a matter of interest, the Dish was made by Mitsubishi (of Japan ) and had a cassegrain feed with a liquid helium low noise receiver mounted on the dish .
    Intelsat 3 ( over the Indian Ocean ) was replaced by Intelsat 4, then 5, before the Earth Station was decommissioned .

    The new earth station near Perth is normally unmanned and does not use a liquid helium low noise receiver because the power output of satellites has gone from 3 Watts to around 100 Watts .

  • 11. Samuel  |  April 4th, 2006 at 7:57 am

    You really should write memoirs John, there is a lot of interesting history that you could document in the process.

  • 12. Samuel  |  April 4th, 2006 at 11:33 am

    Optus B1 was playing up again around 11am today, causing audio problems during the John Laws Morning Show.

  • 13. John B1_B5  |  April 4th, 2006 at 1:48 pm

    Yeah…. it’s running on borrowed time .

  • 14. Samuel  |  April 4th, 2006 at 2:41 pm

    Well it was supposed to be replaced last year, and the replacement is still not on launch schedules, plus it is being used in excess of its specification and has no backup guidance system in case the current one fails, as the primary one has already failed. One can only hope that D1 is up there soon…very soon.


April 2006

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