In at least two passages, satellite trackers in the USA and Italy, almost seven hours apart, picked up signals from Amazônia-1, a Brazilian satellite that was launched last Sunday (28). The irregularity of the signal seems to indicate that the spaceship is spiraling out of control.
Inpe (National Institute for Space Research) has not officially commented on the topic. The AEB (Brazilian Space Agency) just says it is waiting for Inpe’s announcement. In a private discussion group via the Telegram app, the engineers involved in the project declare that they are not allowed to talk about the topic, but that they should minimize the seriousness of the situation. Experts heard from the star messenger suggest that the pattern indicates problems. “It doesn’t look good” is the current sentence.
While we wait for an official explanation, it is worth remembering: even if the satellite does indeed go out of control, it doesn’t mean the situation is irreversible. Surely there will be attempts to send commands and use the attitude control system (gyroscopes in the spacecraft that you can use to reorient it) to stabilize it.
About 45 minutes after takeoff, on Sunday morning, the tracking station on Brazilian soil picked up signals from the satellite, indicating a successful orbital insertion. So there was no mention of it spinning in unforeseen or uncontrolled ways. The problem may have occurred shortly after the launch of the satellite launched by the Indian PSLV launcher (the images indicate an unusually smooth rotation), or a command sent to the spaceship started the process. Currently, without official information, there is no way to speculate what exactly happened and what options there are to restore it to a nominal state.
The first indication of a problem came from the USA when the American satcom group tweeted this Tuesday (2) at 11:55 am (from Brasília): “Passage from Amazonia-1 in volume S. It seems to be falling … maybe not so good for Volume X ”(indicating that rotation could make it difficult to capture).
So far it could be a receiver problem or a coincidence that a reorientation test was taking place on the satellite at this point in time. The only difference is that the tracker specified as the Supertracker made the same diagnosis from Italy almost seven hours later, at 6.14 p.m.: “Passem do Amazônia-1. Received in band S and in band X. Nothing in volume X and a rollover signal in volume S. “
The Amazônia-1 was developed for taking photos of the ground with a resolution of 64 meters per pixel and, if the camera is correctly aligned, it must be stabilized in order to be able to carry out its work. If it really tips over and it can’t be undone, the mission may be nearing its premature end. Hopefully not.
The initiative, dreamed of three decades and carried out over the past 13 years, cost R $ 380 million, including starting with the Indians. It is not only the first 100% national imaging satellite on earth, but also the first use of the multi-mission platform developed by Inpe to reduce the cost of future spacecraft.
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