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Satellite outage affects Mexicans Space Shorts: Failure blacks out resource for rural schools COMPILED BY MSNBC Aug. 25  A $250 million Mexican satellite seems to have died in space, cutting service to major companies, beepers and thousands of rural schoolchildren who depend on televised instruction. OPERATORS SAID Monday that services were quickly shifted to other satellites. But education officials said that some schoolchildren could remain without classes for weeks.

Its not dead, but the prognosis is very bad, said Lauro Gonzalez, chief executive officer of Satelites Mexicanos SA, the Mexican satellite unit of Loral Space & Communications Inc.

The backup central processor of Satmexs Solidaridad 1 failed Sunday morning, Gonzalez said. Its primary central processor failed last year. The failure stripped television service from 12,000 mostly rural secondary schools across Mexico that depend on satellite signals for some or all of their teaching, according to Alfredo Cortina, spokesman for the federal Public Education Secretariat. Some schools in remote areas have only a handful of students and depend entirely on televised instruction. Cortina said missed television classes would be repeated later. The federal government has decided that education will have priority in the solution of this problem, Cortina said. But he said it would take emergency brigades of technicians three weeks to restore service to some of the schools, whose antennas must be reoriented to capture signals from other satellites. The Mexico City newspaper El Universal reported Monday that the satellite collapse had knocked out its service to 50 subscribers of its news service. El Universal had turned to the Internet in place of the satellite, agency editor Manuel Nolasco said. Gonzalez said the satellites customers included 28 companies, mostly in the television and radio broadcasting and telecommunications businesses. Half are Mexican companies. Satmex said Solidaridad 1 was orbiting 21,00- miles above the earth at 15,000 mph. When the battery runs out, Satmex will be unable to recover the satellite. The cause of Sundays failure was under investigation, Gonzalez said.

Solidaridad 1 was launched Nov. 19, 1993, and was scheduled to orbit until 2007. It was built by General Motors Corp.s Hughes Space & Communications Co. Mexicos 17,000 bank branches reported no problems Monday, as operations were switched last year to the Solidaridad 2  also owned by Satmex  and to a digital network operated by Telefonos de Mexico SA., the countrys largest phone carrier.

Hector Rangel Domene, president of the Mexican Bankers Association, said last years satellite shutdown affected financial transactions throughout Mexico, prompting banks to switch to backup networks and move communications to a newer satellite.

-- Martin Thompson (, August 29, 2000


Mexican Satellite Failure: Possible Link to Past Problem

By Jeff Foust Special to posted: 11:10 am ET 30 August 2000

(SpaceViews) -- Investigators are looking into the possibility that the malfunction of a Mexican communications satellite earlier this week may be linked to the failure of another communications satellite two years ago.

A spokesman for Hughes Electronics, the parent company for satellite manufacturer Hughes Space and Communications, said there is a possibility that a problem that caused the Solidaridad 1 satellite to malfunction Sunday may be traced to the same cause as the failure of the Galaxy 4 satellite in May 1998.

Solidaridad 1, launched in 1993, stopped operating at 11:45 am Eastern Daylight Time (15:45 GMT) Sunday when the spacecraft control processor -- the satellite's main computer -- shut down. Attempts to restart the computer did not succeed, and the transponders on the satellite that provided voice, data and television broadcasting have been shut down.

The Solidaridad 1 satellite orbiting the Earth.

"The satellite is still not operating," Richard Dore, a spokesman for Hughes Electronics, said Tuesday. How long efforts to rescue the satellite will continue is a decision that will be left up to Satmex, the Mexican company that operates the spacecraft, he said. Satmex officials said late Tuesday that they had given up efforts to revive the satellite and were shutting it down.

The cause of the problem is still under investigation, but Dore said engineers are looking into the possibility that the problem may be related to the failure of Galaxy 4, another Hughes satellite that failed on orbit in May 1998, disrupting pager service and interrupting broadcast feeds.

Investigators believe that Galaxy 4 failed because of a phenomenon known as "tin whiskers": crystalline filaments that grow on the edges of tin-plated relays within the satellite's electronics. If one of those whiskers touches another part of the system, it can create a short circuit that damages electronic components.

Dore said that while it took several months to determine that the tin whisker phenomenon was the likely cause of the Galaxy 4 failure, it should take far less time to determine whether or not they played a role with Solidaridad 1. "Now that we know what to look for, we should be able to determine it much more quickly," he said.

The tin-whiskers problem was first noticed in the HS 601 series of satellites, which includes both Galaxy 4 and Solidaridad 1, in late 1997. Since then, the tin-plated relays have been replaced with nickel-plated ones, which are immune from the whiskers problem, on newer satellites.

Sunday's failure is not the first for Solidaridad 1. In April 1999 the primary spacecraft control processor failed, but control of the spacecraft was restored with a backup processor, which then failed on Sunday.

Satmex said it was transferring users of Solidaridad 1 to three other satellites operated by Satmex, as well as to other satellite operators.

-- Doris (, August 31, 2000.

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