Rogue satellite story

A case of PEBKAC (Problem Exists Between Keyboard and Chair)? Tell us about your war stories!
Post Reply
User avatar
Posts: 862
Joined: Fri Feb 01, 2008 12:08 am
Location: Omaha

Rogue satellite story

Post by Shane » Mon Jan 03, 2011 1:38 am

The Galaxy 15 story reminds me of another Galaxy bird that sort of fell out of the sky (or at least out of position) in 1998. Wisconsin readers here will no doubt recall this as it affected the Brewers network.

Forgive me if I've told this story before - can't remember if I posted it here or not but there are a lot of new folks on this board that may not have read it before, so here goes.

At the time, I was working for Madison Radio Group - the Capstar stations. We were in the midst of moving six stations in three different studio locations into the WIBA site on Fish Hatchery Road. As part of the construction, the satellite dishes all needed to be moved from near the south side of the property to a location farther north.

This was to make room for an expanded parking lot to accommodate all the extra personnel who would now be reporting to this site.

When the dish move was completed, the parking lot grading was not yet done. I got word one afternoon that the whole plant had lost it's C-band signals. Turned out the grader operator had struck the Satcom C-5 dish a glancing blow with his machine and knocked it off azimuth. We got the azimuth corrected, all returned to normal, and the grader op said, "I didn't think I hit it THAT hard!" To which comment we didn't know whether to laugh or cry.

The very next day, I get a phone call that the Brewers network is gone. I wasn't at the site at that moment, and the theory from those who were was that the grader had struck again. When I got there, the GM was on his cell phone at the foot of the dish and attempting to swing it in the direction of Galaxy 4 while whoever was on the other end was watching meters and listening for audio.

Well, of course, we never found it. It wasn't there to be found.

When later that night we heard what had really happened (Galaxy 4 going AWOL), I made the comment that the grader must have really hit that dish hard to knock the bird right out of orbit! Part of the audience got it right away; the rest took a little longer.
-Mike Shane- -Omaha-

User avatar
Posts: 280
Joined: Fri Nov 16, 2007 10:30 pm
Location: Raleigh NC

Re: Rogue satellite story

Post by awsherrill » Tue Jan 04, 2011 12:17 am

I remember well when Galaxy 4 went TU. That was a really big deal. Among other program providers, NPR was on that bird. All across the country, NPR stations were getting programming via dial-up phone (the lucky ones could get an ISDN feed).

Not only that, but a lot of paging companies (remember them?) were on G4. There were lots of news stories about all the hospitals that couldn't page doctors.

At the time, Nebraska Cornhusker sports coverage (via the Pinnacle network) was on G4. I was working for a group of stations that originated programming for Pinnacle, and I remember having to do some phone feeds for awhile. Eventually they either moved to another bird, or the satellite was replaced with an on-orbit spare.

Posts: 438
Joined: Wed Dec 15, 2010 3:21 pm

Re: Rogue satellite story

Post by Baylink » Sun Jan 30, 2011 11:11 am

I was a PageNet (though not yet a Skytel) customer when the G4 outage happened; I knew some of the local engineering types, though my investigations into TAP and SNPP, and that's how I heard about it.

It's mentioned, also, in this piece about how *nothing* is ever 100.0% reliable, even things like satellite links: ... ightmares/

Post Reply