Last month we said goodbye to a satellite that had served Intelsat General Corp. (IGC) and the United States well for the past five years. Galaxy 26 reached its operational end of life on June 7, 2014, when the final command was sent from Intelsat’s operations center. It’s always appropriate to recognize a job well done, and the story behind G-26 is a great example of the reasons customers turn to Intelsat for commercial satcom solutions.
On February 6, 2009, we received a call from the Joint Staff at the Pentagon with a critical problem due to the failure of a Eutelsat satellite. Commanders needed a large amount of bandwidth over the Middle East region for future missions and they needed it fast. We took the requirement back to our engineers at IGC and Intelsat, and within days we had a creative solution. (I talk more about getting this phone call in this short video done to commemorate Intelsat’s 50th anniversary.)
Who knew that a satellite designed to cover the domestic U.S. would work so perfectly over the Middle East region, reaching from Germany to Southeast Asia? On February 20, just two weeks after the call, Intelsat began drifting G-26 from its orbital slot at 93 degrees west to its new position at 50 degrees east, having cleared off the commercial traffic to other Intelsat satellites. The satellite reached its new operating location one month later and began supporting critical UAV missions almost immediately.
It was vital that we moved as quickly as we did. At the time of the 2009 G-26 move, our contract partner Artel agreed.
“This move is of particular importance, since we did not want any service interruptions to the DoD missions and there was no other capacity available to fulfill these requirements without this bold move by Intelsat,” said Abbas Yazdani, then President and CEO of ARTEL.
The contract was for 432 MHz of bandwidth using 12 Ku-band transponders. Ultimately this bandwidth supported the majority of the daily combat air patrols over the region during the conflicts in both Iraq and Afghanistan. G-26 was the workhorse for the conflicts for several years and it performed flawlessly. Intelsat and IGC received high marks for delivering such a creative solution in less than a few months and proved, yet again, that the commercial satellite industry can meet the critical communication demands of the DoD.
We celebrated the Galaxy 26 success with cake and champagne in Intelsat’s operations center with many of the people who worked to help keep the satellite operating over the past five years. We thanked them for their support and let them know that they were part of a great accomplishment for the security of the United States.