Last night, the company filed an 8-K document with the SEC that spilled the beans – the transponders are deteriorating fast. GlobalStar believes the amplifier problem might relate to irradiation in orbit, but it isn’t entirely sure.
Previously, the company said the addition of eight spare satellites, planned for launch in 2007, would provide reliable service until a set of next-generation satellites were placed into service in 2009.
Now, it’s less optimistic:
Based on data recently collected from satellite operations, the Company has concluded that the degradation of the amplifiers is now occurring at a rate that is faster than previously experienced and faster than the Company had previously anticipated. To date the Company has been unable to correct the amplifier problem and may be unable to do so.
Based on its most recent analysis, the Company now believes that, if the degradation of the S-band antenna amplifiers continues at the current rate or further accelerates, and if the Company is unsuccessful in developing additional technical solutions, the quality of two-way communications services will decline, and by some time in 2008 substantially all of the Company’s currently in-orbit satellites will cease to be able to support two-way communications services.
As the number of in-orbit satellites with properly functioning S-band antenna decreases, despite a successful launch and optimized placement in orbit of the eight spare satellites in mid-2007, increasingly larger coverage gaps will recur over areas in which the Company currently provides two-way communication services.
Subscriber service will continue to be available, but at certain times in any given location it will take substantially longer to establish calls and the average duration of calls may be impacted adversely.
Globalstar uses eight orbital planes of six satellites, each at an operational altitude of 1,414 kilometers, inclined at 52 degrees, compared to the near-polar 86.4-degree orbits used by Iridium. Globalstar’s constellation of 48 satellites (and 4 spares) utilize simple “bent pipe” repeaters; unlike Iridium’s inter-satellite links.
Space Systems Loral is the prime contractor for the Globalstar satellites (specs). Alcatel Alenia Space was awarded the contract for the 2nd generation of 48 satellites.