The cause of of the forced retirement of Intelsat 29e has been found…and it was not what was originally thought. Intelsat 29e suffered major power loss and loss of control of satellite on 7 April due to what had been assumed to have been a propellant leak or thruster issue.  However, a later investigation came to the conclusion that a micro-meteoroid impact caused mechanical or ESD (electrostatic discharge) damage to electrical harness or a solar induced ESD coupled with a “harness flaw”, resulted in an “undervolt” condition cutting the power. The spacecraft then lost Earth lock and fell into a tumble, entering a protective safe mode as it did so.

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

Customers were relocated to other satellites and the spacecraft was retired on 22 April as it was deemed to be irrecoverable. This satellite did not carry insurance cover after its first year in orbit so no claim could be made.