back to article Curse of Boeing continues: Now a telly satellite it built may explode, will be pushed up to 500km from geo orbit

AT&T’s satellite telly service DirecTV will push one of its birds beyond its geostationary orbit – before it has a chance to explode into a million pieces. The broadcaster fears the batteries on board its Boeing-built Spaceway-1 satellite, which has been aloft since 2005, may detonate, spewing debris into the Clarke Orbit – …

  1. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Oh brother!

    How did those prototype 787 APU batteries end up in orbit?!?!

    1. Saruman the White
      Alert

      Re: Oh brother!

      Some Boeing manager thought that it would be a good idea to re-use them, since (a) no-one would ever know, and (b) it would push Boeing's bottom line up by a few dollars. He was subsequently promoted to project manager of the new 737-MAX development project.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Oh brother!

        Thing is... IIRC SpaceX may try to consolidate Tesla and Starship production

  2. Sven Coenye
    Coat

    There isn’t time to vent the remaining fuel

    Just contract the job out to Delta Airlines.

    Mines the one with the solar panel wipes in the pocket...

    1. Aqua Marina

      Re: There isn’t time to vent the remaining fuel

      Couldn’t they use the fuel vent as a thruster and kill 2 birds with one stone?

      1. mutt13y

        Re: There isn’t time to vent the remaining fuel

        Just a guess, but I imagine that the fuel is just some compressed gas.

        Dumping probably involves carefully activating opposing thrusters.

        1. Cynic_999 Silver badge

          Re: There isn’t time to vent the remaining fuel

          Satellites either use chemical thrusters or electric thrusters (ion or Hall effect). Russia has largely switched to using electric propulsion when possible.

          Large geostationary satellites usually use Monomethylhydrazine (MMH) for the fuel and Nitrogen Textroxide (N2O4) for the oxidizer.

          Compressed gas would have a very low mass-to-energy ratio (the mass being the pressure vessel it is kept in).

        2. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: There isn’t time to vent the remaining fuel

          In space, no one can hear you release gas.

  3. redpawn Silver badge

    User replaceable batteries

    are a must. Bet they have security screws and glue all over them too.

    1. I ain't Spartacus Gold badge
      Mushroom

      Re: User replaceable batteries

      So? What’s the problem? Just let them explode. Then the glue and security screws are no longer an issue...

    2. macjules Silver badge
      Coat

      Re: User replaceable batteries

      Yes, that will teach Boeing to use the same battery suppliers as Apple!

      (Mine's the coat with the hot pockets.)

      1. MrXavia
        Mushroom

        Re: User replaceable batteries

        No they must be the same supplier as for the Samsung Note 7

        1. Captain Scarlet Silver badge
          Coat

          Re: User replaceable batteries

          Add every manufacturer here (HP for one).

    3. Strahd Ivarius Bronze badge
      Devil

      Re: User replaceable batteries

      I am pretty sure that they didn't use a standard connector for charging the batteries either

      1. I ain't Spartacus Gold badge
        Happy

        Re: User replaceable batteries

        And I bet the bugger hasn't got a standard headphone jack, so you need an adapter...

  4. Elledan Bronze badge

    How often does an event like this happen? What kind of batteries are these, anyway? I had a poke around, but it seems that such technical information isn't easy to find.

    Boeing hasn't been very forthcoming with information either, refusing to say what caused the thermal event that damaged the battery. The mentioning of the satellite exploding/breaking up would suggest some kind of serious outgassing event, conceivably inflammable?

    1. Saruman the White

      Damage to the batteries was probably caused by over-charging. Spacecraft batteries are a whole lot more complex than your standard AAAs; they have incredible power storage density and are designed to literally last decades. However, you have to be careful on the charge-discharge cycles, and when charging them you typically monitor the battery temperatures - when the temperature starts going up there is either a serious problem or the battery has reached full charge. Over-charging results in the battery over-heating, which damages the case (which is normally sealed and pressure-resistant).

      The batteries release hydrogen gas when they are discharged; this is kept in the battery gas (this is why it is pressure-resistant. If the case has been damaged by heat, it is possible that the extra pressure generated during a discharge cycle will rupture the case. Spacecraft are pretty fragile things, so this could result in it breaking up.

      1. Velv Silver badge
        Headmaster

        "and are designed to literally last decades"

        Or not, otherwise we wouldn't be in this position.

        1. Lazlo Woodbine Bronze badge

          You did read the first sentence, where it says "Damage to the batteries was probably caused by over-charging" - without this damage the battery probably would last decades, as it is it's already 3 years beyond the satellite's 12 year design life anyway...

    2. Killing Time

      'The mentioning of the satellite exploding/breaking up would suggest some kind of serious outgassing event, conceivably inflammable?'

      Well, conceivable if there is any oxygen around but given the location, probably not...

      An exothermic chemical reaction is what they are concerned about.

    3. Snake Silver badge

      Age

      But many people as forgetting that this device is *already* past its Use By date; a battery going bad after 15 years on a device promised for 12 isn't a manufacturer-derived failure. Things that are old, fail, even here back down on planet Earth. A cell phone or laptop battery 3 years past its prime, and failing, wouldn't be taken with any surprise. This battery may explode, as others have, and mods certainly the level of detonation is simply due to size - this can't be a small battery if it runs a communications satellite for many hours at a time.

      So, I'm sorry, I can't blame Boeing here, even if doing so would be highly convenient or extremely popular right now. Old, super high capacity batteries are notorious trouble makers.

      1. Anonymous Coward Silver badge
        Boffin

        Re: Age

        Additionally, they're probably ultra-nervous about the risk of it exploding - even if the risk is only 1%, the impact to other satellites in that orbit (including their own) would run to billions of dollars, so they'd rather move it out of the area completely.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Age

          The risk is not "1%" or any such fixed value. Remember, it's *geostationary orbit*. Something exploding there will likely mean debris staying there, for a looooong time, with small, random, variants of that orbit. Which means crossing it at regular intervals. Any other satellite in that orbit could then be at risk at some point.

          On this important orbit, that would be a really big deal.

          1. Cynic_999 Silver badge

            Re: Age

            Being in geostationary orbit makes absolutely no difference so far as the behaviour of the debris is concerned (practically none of which will remain in that orbit anyway, having all been given pretty large accellerations in random directions).

            The big difference is that it is a pretty crowded orbit, so there are other satellites relatively close by that could be hit by debris on its way to its new orbit.

      2. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Age

        This satellite and laptops both use things called "batteries". That's about where the relevance of your comparison ends.

        Boeing knew those batteries would end up in space, at least 36000 kms away from the nearest Boeing Store or wherever it is they fix their gadgets. So I can very much blame Boeing for not being able to tell the buyer that the batteries would fail in such a way. If they had, it would obviously had been integrated in the satellite's life-cycle, and it would obviously have been decommissioned earlier, safely, and without causing an emergency.

  5. Roger B

    In the same way that regular army personnel fill sandbags to keep occupied and minds off shooting their commanding officer, will Space Force personnel spend their time sweeping up these abandoned satellites?

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      space geek squad?

    2. jelabarre59 Silver badge
      1. Roger B

        sJust 55 years away, so not unrealistic. After posting I forgot about Star Trek: The Final Frontier and the Klingons shooting space debris that had drifted into their space, in this case Pioneer 10.

        Media predicting the future as it always does.

  6. deevee

    batteries in their B787's caught fire, now batteries in their satellites exploding....

    Maybe Boeing and Tesla should merge, they can call themselves "the exploders".

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      If Elon's orbiting roadster collides with the DirecTV satellite, would that be considered a Boeing and Tesla 'merger'?

      1. Andy The Hat Silver badge

        No, that's a Top Gear stunt ...

        "Oops I accidentally reversed into a satellite sixteen times until it blew up. What a jolly jape!"

  7. RM Mynez-Arefzlash

    Where will the bits go?

    I appreciate that moving it elsewhere is probably a good idea, but if it explodes won't it throw the bits into all sorts of orbits? Given that a higher orbit needs more energy wouldn't slowing it down to lower orbit be better? The debris would have less energy.

    1. The Man Who Fell To Earth Silver badge
      FAIL

      Re: Where will the bits go?

      They are only moving it 500km higher from it's present 35780km orbit. All they could do if they wanted to lower the orbit is come down about the same amount as all they have for propulsion are station keeping thrusters. Either way the orbital velocities are almost the same.

      1. Lars Silver badge
        Happy

        Re: Where will the bits go?

        "orbital velocities".

        ISS is moving around us at 27000 km/h at about 430 km up.

        What about the velocity of such a satellite.

        1. Phil O'Sophical Silver badge

          Re: Where will the bits go?

          Anything in geosynchronous orbit is travelling at about 3,000m/s, or approximately 11,000 km/h

          1. ThatOne Silver badge
            Stop

            Re: Where will the bits go?

            > about 3,000 m/s, or approximately 11,000 km/h

            Wait, there must be an error there: 3 km/s can't possibly be 11000 km/h.

            3000 m/s would be 180 km/h, which seems awfully slow to me. That's a speed any/most cars can easily reach.

            So, what's the real speed required to keep something in geosynchronous orbit please? A casual Wikipedia search didn't yield any result.

            1. Saruman the White

              Re: Where will the bits go?

              There are 3,600 seconds in an hour. 3000 m/s = 3 km/s, multiple it by 3,600 results in 10,800 km/h.

              180 km/h = 50 m/s

              1. ThatOne Silver badge
                Facepalm

                Re: Where will the bits go?

                Doh. *slaps face*

                What a chance I don't do mental arithmetics for a living...

            2. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

              Re: Where will the bits go?

              3000 metres per SECOND, not 3000 metres per HOUR or 3KPH. There's a slight but perceptible difference :-)

            3. SVV Silver badge
              Headmaster

              Re: Where will the bits go?

              3 x 60 x 60 = 10800 km/h

              Youi have assumed that there are 60 seconds in an hour.

              1. Anonymous Coward
                Anonymous Coward

                Re: Where will the bits go?

                An (erroneous) assumption that I've made all too often when setting up SOA records over the years...

                Was so happy when BIND started letting me think in terms of days or hours.

            4. teknopaul Silver badge

              Re: Where will the bits go?

              Trick question? The speed is different depending on distance fron the surface of earth.

              i.e 0 at 0r 2pi r on the surface.

          2. RegGuy1 Silver badge
            Coat

            Re: Where will the bits go?

            Hey, you!

            This is Brexit Britain (well it will be in six days).

            We MUST have the velocity expressed in miles per hour. No other units are acceptable (well maybe feet per second). We don't want ANY of this bloody European talk here -- metres per second indeed.

            We didn't vote to LEAVE THE EU just to see all that effort lost by sensible people using sensible measurements. I'm guessing you're not a white-haired white male. Bring back £sp. If it was good enough for the Romans (bloody Europeans... etc).

            1. OurAl
              Facepalm

              Re: Where will the bits go?

              I think you mean £sd - denarius was the Roman bit

            2. Jason Bloomberg Silver badge
              Coat

              Re: Where will the bits go?

              This is Brexit Britain (well it will be in six days). We MUST have the velocity expressed in miles per hour. No other units are acceptable

              Piss off - It's"furlongs per fortnight" or the whole bloody thing simply hasn't been worth it.

              The one with the foolscap notebook in the pocket. The velum one ->

            3. Sgt_Oddball Silver badge
              Coat

              Re: Where will the bits go?

              And this is the register, have standards...

              In this case its 0.1001% of the maximum velocity of sheep in a vacuum (MVsv).

              Which when you consider things is pretty nippy but we've built faster things.

              1. Anonymous Coward
                Anonymous Coward

                Re: Where will the bits go?

                But nothing as fast as it takes a PHB to give themselves a pay rise or hefty bonus.

                I swear that's living proof of faster-than-light speed.

            4. Mr Humbug

              > If it was good enough for the Romans

              Ah, you mean the first Eurpean Union (although Germany didn't join that one, nor did Scotland or Ireland)

              1. Stork Silver badge

                S and W parts of Germany of what is now Germany did, Trier and Köln (aka Colonge, from Colonia Agrippina) were Roman.

              2. David Neil

                Some parts of Scotland did

                The Antonine Wall ran from Dumbarton across to the Forth - was only manned for a few years, but everything south of Glasgow was under Roman occupation for a while

            5. Anonymous Coward
              Anonymous Coward

              Re: Where will the bits go?

              BREXIT Britannia

              The correct standard as of Saturday 1st February will be fathoms per lunar cycle.

              1. nematoad Silver badge

                Re: Where will the bits go?

                What I want to know is when are they going to re-introduce rods, poles and perches a.k.a 5 and a half yards?

                We're British and will have nothing to do with all this decimal nonsense! Yes, yes I'm being sarcastic in case you are wondering.

                The trouble is I've actually had encounters with people actually advocating going back to using pounds and ounces, feet and inches and Fahrenheit etc. I'm in my 70s and was never taught SI units of measurement but I had no trouble adapting so why all the angst?

          3. Cynic_999 Silver badge

            Re: Where will the bits go?

            11000 km/h relative to what? Anything in geostationary orbit is travelling at 0 km/h *relative to the surface of the Earth*

        2. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Where will the bits go?

          What about the velocity of such a satellite?

          Depends if it's European or African and if it's carrying a coconut....

      2. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

        Re: Where will the bits go?

        "all they have for propulsion are station keeping thrusters"

        The report also says they have a lot of fuel on board. If so then presumably they could just keep going and no limit themselves to another 500km and at the same time avoid worries about discharge of the spare fuel by using it. There should be plenty of room up there above geostationary plus 500km.

        1. Anonymous Coward Silver badge
          Boffin

          Re: Where will the bits go?

          There are advantages to knowing where the junk is up there and having it all in one place (relatively) - for cleanup or avoidance.

    2. steelpillow Silver badge

      Re: Where will the bits go?

      Most of the bits would go into mildly elliptical orbits, with a spread of periods around the one at the time. Few of those orbits would extend beyond 500km from the original, and few of the battery pieces would be both big and fast enough to have significant kinetic energy relative to another geostationary sat, so moving out 500km reduces the risk of collision from very tiny to near-background level.

      TBH there is an awful lot of emptiness in geostationary orbit, it being a quarter of a million kilometers (150,000 miles) round trip and all that. Your nearest neighbours are probably around 1,000 km away. Although the battery might explode, the sudden outgassing would not rip that much fully away from the main structure, it's not like an atmospheric explosion. In all honesty, the risk of damage to another geo satellite appears negligible anyway.

      If I were feeling cynical I might suggest that if the battery dies then the sat's 24/7 coverage is gone and it needs replacing anyway, so why not make a PR stunt out of it and play the good guys?

      1. Richard 12 Silver badge
        Boffin

        Re: Where will the bits go?

        There isn't very much useful geostationary.

        While it's a thin line 260,000 km long, the bits people want are over the Americas, Africa and Indian ocean. Hardly anyone wants the 1/3 or so over the Pacific Ocean, as there'd be nobody under the sat.

        Plus you want to be as far away as possible from your neighbours, in case they explode.

        So there's a lot of good reasons for clearing dying sats out of the way while they're still under control. After all, the dying sat is almost certainly very near a place someone very much wants to put their own sat.

        It would be even worse to leave a cloud of debris in the orbit instead. As orbits drift, that mess will slowly expand, denying a large area of geostat.

    3. Simon Harris Silver badge

      Re: Where will the bits go?

      Presumably the idea is that there won't be any bits as it will be shunted out of the way and shut down so the batteries don't get a chance to explode.

    4. Carpet Deal 'em Bronze badge
      Boffin

      Re: Where will the bits go?

      Given that a higher orbit needs more energy wouldn't slowing it down to lower orbit be better?

      What matters is the delta-V: getting it into a low enough orbit that it wouldn't cause problems is tremendously more expensive than getting it into the graveyard orbit geostationary satellites are put into, which is going to be devoid of anything anybody care about anyway(so if it does explode up there, the most it can do is make flinging things to the moon or beyond slightly more awkward, assuming the orbit isn't avoided already).

    5. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      There will be no bits

      It will only (potentially) explode if the batteries are used. Elsewhere I read only if they attempt to charge them, but the effect is the same either way.

      So they haven't used the batteries since they learned that, and won't need to use them if they can put it into a parking orbit by Feb. 25th. Which is why they filed with the FCC to do just that, and since it only takes a few weeks for the process that shouldn't be an issue.

      First they will lower its orbit a bit and let it drift eastward to about 50W or so as Directv has dishes that can see it only to about 40W, then begin raising its orbit and have it stabilized in its parking orbit by the time it passes 155W or so which is how far their dishes can see west.

      The article mentions an Intelsat facility in Riverside - Directv already has two in the LA area, but I guess the Intelsat facility has a dish with a wider arc (if parabolic) or is able to aim further west if movable. Maybe they won't let the satellite drift as far east as they have done with other retirements to reduce the total time required since unlike most retirements this one has a hard deadline.

    6. Velv Silver badge
      Pirate

      Re: Where will the bits go?

      OK, I appreciate this isn't the "environmentally friendly" option, but why don't they just keep pushing until the fuel runs out? Isn't that the least dangerous option?

      A parking orbit is a great idea if you make the assumption that in the future someone develops the technology to undertake the recovery. That's pretty much the world of cryogenics, gambling that someone in the future wants to spend money to get you back.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Where will the bits go?

        No the parking orbit is a great idea because it would take a LOT more fuel to send the satellite down into the atmosphere to burn up. It would take almost as much energy to hit the atmosphere as it would to leave Earth's orbit entirely.

  8. STOP_FORTH Silver badge
    Boffin

    Satellite graveyards

    The earth is neither spherical nor homogenous. Satellites in the graveyard orbit do not have any stationkeeping adjustments as they have no fuel. They drift around the Earth until they end up in one of two graveyard spots. I think these are over the Indian Ocean and the Eastern Pacific near to South America. (I could check, but can't be bothered, you can all use search engines!)

    Presumably, once we have the technology, clean up will consist of a very large butterfly net and a trash can. You won't have to clean up the entire orbit, just the two hotspots.

    1. spold Silver badge

      Re: Satellite graveyards

      Isn't this a bit like dumping all your plastic into a sea and making it someone elses problem?

      Anyway - now we know where they will park all the 737 Max planes.

      1. STOP_FORTH Silver badge

        Re: Satellite graveyards

        Yes it is. In my defence, it wasn't my idea!

  9. Zog_but_not_the_first
    Devil

    But did the bean counters get their bonuses?

    Yes?

    All is well then.

    1. eldakka Silver badge

      Re: But did the bean counters get their bonuses?

      Since it's lasted 3 years longer than its designed service life, why wouldn't they?

  10. Yet Another Anonymous coward Silver badge

    Ask Ajit Pai

    Although presumably the head of the FCC thinks the Earth is flat

  11. theblackhand

    Spaceway-1

    According to the wiki article, this was launched in 2005 with a 12 year lifetime and was currently being used as a backup satellite.

    While the battery issue is undesirable - are there any details of the fault (i.e. overcharging due to a damaged component or control system?) as bashing Boeing for this seems a little harsh unless I'm missing something.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Spaceway-1

      If Boeing designed an aircraft for a 12 year lifespan without ensuring that it would not still be flying around at the same altitude fifteen years later, you might think someone had been careless.

      The specifier if not the manufacturer.

      The US approach to dumping stuff in space seems to resemble that approach of the former Soviet Union to dumping stuff in Siberia. And that does not denote approval.

      1. A.P. Veening Silver badge

        Re: Spaceway-1

        Still being able to be directed to a graveyard orbit (and guaranteed to arrive there) after 15 years of service while a 12 year lifespan was specified counts as pretty good engineering in my book, the safety margin is arguably a bit large.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Spaceway-1

          We will just have to differ on that one. To me it's like saying "It would be OK if after 12 years a team of travellers was sent out to take your old refrigerator and dump it in a hedge where you can't see it."

          Calling it a "graveyard orbit" is marketing speak. Satellites are being put up in large numbers without real thought for long term consequences. Remember that US plan years ago to dump a load of small gold needles into orbit? Now it is lots of small satellites.

      2. theblackhand

        Re: Spaceway-1

        "If Boeing designed an aircraft for a 12 year lifespan without ensuring that it would not still be flying around at the same altitude fifteen years later, you might think someone had been careless."

        Is the comparison to an aircraft valid? An aircraft is maintained as part of normal operations while a satellite is almost entirely unserviced during its lifetime. Aircraft parts prone to stress are regularly replaced to minimise risk and anything with an operational life is replaced before it is likely to fail.

        And aircraft operate in a less hostile environment than space - the fault that has end the life of this satellite is likely repairable if it occurred in an aircraft and if it was caused by being hit by an unknown object, then that is a risk satellite manufacturers take and attempt to workaround with additional resilience. But resilience doesn't protect you from multiple failures particularly as you reach the later stages of your mission where you may already be operating with failed components.

    2. Mage Silver badge
      Alert

      Re: Spaceway-1

      It was recently given a clean bill of health and an extension to 2025

      https://fcc.report/IBFS/SES-STA-INTR2020-00116

      Is it going UP to a graveyard orbit or being unusually de-orbited into the atmosphere?

      Often the limiting factor on satellite life is station keeping fuel, not solar panels or batteries. There have been other satellites with battery failures that stayed in orbit but at reduced or no transmission power when in the dark, which oddly isn't every night.

      1. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

        Re: Spaceway-1

        Maybe when it was launched the fuel reserve might have been calculated to last significantly longer than it's initial intended life span, but since then, new regulations on moving "dead" sats out of orbit mean it must be moved now while there enough fuel to move it to a safe orbit. It was launched 15 years ago and probably designed and specified at least 5 years prior to that when there was probably a lot less concern about what happens to expired sats.

      2. DavCrav Silver badge

        Re: Spaceway-1

        "Is it going UP to a graveyard orbit or being unusually de-orbited into the atmosphere?"

        Any movement between orbits takes energy. Geostationary orbit is a long way up, far higher than the ISS or spy satellites. To pull something all the way from geosynchronous orbit to the atmosphere takes a lot of energy. But we have nothing important further away than geostationary, so sod it, just send it further out.

      3. theblackhand

        Re: Spaceway-1

        "Is it going UP to a graveyard orbit or being unusually de-orbited into the atmosphere?"

        It's going up - there is a significant quantity of fuel remaining (73kg at present) which may account for the life time extension.

        Regarding the batteries, the satellite appears to be OK operating on solar panels but the concern is that the coming eclipse season will require battery operation leading to the potential for catastrophic failure. Eclipse season starts on Feb 25th.

    3. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Spaceway-1

      Satellites typically last longer than their design life. Sometimes MUCH longer (Directv has one satellite launched in 2005 with a 12 year expected life that has fuel reserves until 2034)

      Usually running out of fuel for station keeping (plus reserve to boost into parking orbit) is what causes geosynchronous satellites to be retired. They have a fair amount of redundancy so failures for things like gyroscopes, TT&C antennas and so forth can be tolerated, but not much you can do about a battery pack that may burst if used other than retire the satellite so you never you have to use it.

  12. ecofeco Silver badge

    Boeing, boeing

    ...gone.

  13. Bluto Nash
    WTF?

    Stupid (I'm quite sure) question...

    Why not take that last 70+ kg of propellant and just push the damn thing OUT of orbit and into the direction of eternal travel thataway? Plunge into the sun, etc., or into the cold void of outer space? If it decides to blow up then, it's heading outward (or inward if burny-burny fate is opted)? Why just park it out a bit and leave it?

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Yes - set to Graveyard orbit

      Yes - Set it to Graveyard orbit, might as well set it to burn up all its remaining full going into as high an orbit as possible..

    2. Remy Redert

      Re: Stupid (I'm quite sure) question...

      Because it doesn't have anywhere near the Delta/V required to deorbit it. If you try, you'll likely just end up with an elliptical orbit that strays through the geostationary orbits on a regular cycle.

      1. Robert Carnegie Silver badge

        Re: Stupid (I'm quite sure) question...

        They can't throw this satellite into the sun either. Only Superman does things like that.

        I suppose that, rather counter intuitively, it's slowing something down enough in space so that it drops into the sun that takes lots of energy - and mass - that isn't there on board to be used.

        You and I are in orbit around the sun at a fair rate. If the earth somehow popped out from under us, we'd carry on much the same. But with evident inconveniences.

    3. sanmigueelbeer Silver badge

      Re: Stupid (I'm quite sure) question...

      Why just park it out a bit and leave it?

      One doesn't just park a decommissioned satellite "somewhere out there" in (deep) space.

      Ever heard of "billiard balls"? What happens if a comet should collide with this junk? A chain reaction would occur making space like a gunfight in a concrete room with your eyes covered -- in short, not a good idea.

    4. Velv Silver badge
      Facepalm

      Re: Stupid (I'm quite sure) question...

      "Plunge into the sun"

      D'oh! it in the text on every battery - "do not dispose of in fire"

  14. Anonymous Crowbar

    "Aliens"

  15. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Kerblam!

    So if it blows up while being moved, would this still be bad?

    Just saying.

  16. This post has been deleted by its author

  17. Kevin McMurtrie Silver badge

    Extra fuel?

    I don't understand this precision 500km parking maneuver that needs only a precision amount of fuel. Is it going to pop into flaming glitter like in Star Wars or is it going to vent jets of boiling electrolyte and tumble off in some random direction while parts fly off?

  18. Peter 39

    Tom Lehrer

    "Once the rockets are up, who cares where they come down?

    That's not my department!" says Wernher von Braun

  19. Winkypop Silver badge
    Alien

    Where's the kaboom?

    There was supposed to be an Earth-shattering kaboom!

  20. 89724102172714182892114I7551670349743096734346773478647892349863592355648544996312855148587659264921 Bronze badge

    ...Boeing... Boeing... gone.

  21. Andy The Hat Silver badge

    Somewhat surreal

    Gravity is amazing.

    If my laptop batteries were going to explode in Southampton and I had to scoot up to Aberdeen to be on the safe side I'd be rather annoyed ...

    Thank heavens for gravity and a toast to Newton, who decided things fall down and was obviously English. Up until that time Europe must have been a confused place with all that not falling in any predictable direction ... Come to think of it, if we invented it, did we copyright falling down? Perhaps a lever in the Brexit land grab negotiations ... "we demand Europe returns everything that falls down to us".

    <Particularly strappy coat already on, sound of trolley wheels echoes in the corridor ... :-) >

    1. BigSLitleP

      Re: Somewhat surreal

      I think Newton missed a trick here. When he invented gravity, he should have patented it in the US!. just imagine how much money he'd have now! As he was a Brit though, i agree with the whole "we own everything that falls down" bit. Just think of what we could get! We'd own colder temperatures in winter, tree leaves, litter, rain............ oh. That's Britain already, isn't it?

  22. Radio Wales
    Mushroom

    0737 MAXO problemo

    They figured it would last out until the people responsible were drawing their pensions.

    The Emergency escape plan was drawn up with that in mind, i.e. Someone elses problem.

    I wonder if it is fitted with some kind of unexpected climb defeat sensor?

    What could possibly go wrong?

  23. Anonymous South African Coward Silver badge

    “This satellite is a backup and we do not anticipate any impacts on consumer service as we retire it. We are replacing it with another satellite in our fleet,” DirecTV told The Register.

    Translated it means "something will bork badly, but we will scream at our technicians until the problem is fixed".

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