Intelsat 29e suffered a propellant leak on 7 April 2019, the cause of which is as yet unknown/undisclosed. As a result of the leaky “thrust”, Intelsat 29e lost Earth lock and fell into a tumble and had to put itself into a protective safe mode. “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 following a suspected explosion which may have been propellant related. A further piece of debris was reportedly imaged by ExoAnalytics leaving the spacecraft on 10 April.

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.

Update on 24 April 2019: Intelsat has now declared that the spacecraft is a total loss after recovery attempts were unsuccessful.

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