Intelsat 29e appeared suffered a propellant leak on 7 April 2019 after the spacecraft was lost Earth lock and fell into a tumble and had to put itself into a protective safe mode.

Update on 9 August: The cause was found to be a power loss rather than a fuel leak. Micrometeoroid impact caused damage to electrical harness or a solar induced electrostatic discharge coupled with a “harness flaw” resulted in an “undervolt” condition cutting the power.

“Debris” was tracked coming off the spacecraft by ExoAnalytics’ Earthbound telescopes. Engineers’ attempts to recover the satellite were ended after all communications were lost on 9 April. A further piece of debris was reportedly imaged by ExoAnalytics leaving the spacecraft on 10 April.  Intelsat declared that the spacecraft as a total loss on 22 April after recovery attempts were unsuccessful.

Built by Boeing, the IS-29e is part of Intelsat’s Epic series of High Throughput satellites. Customers using its telecommunications payload are being relocated to other satellites in the Intelsat fleet.

While this anomalous event would normally trigger an insurance loss for such a relatively young commercial spacecraft (it has only been in service for three years), this satellite did not carry in-orbit insurance cover after its first year in orbit so no claim can be made.

Artist’s impression of Intelsat 29e. Courtesy: Boeing