Mission typeCommunication
OperatorSES Americom
COSPAR ID2008-011A
SATCAT no.32708Edit this on Wikidata
Mission duration15 years (planned)
Spacecraft properties
ManufacturerLockheed Martin
Start of mission
Launch date14 March 2008, 23:18:55 (2008-03-14UTC23:18:55Z) UTC
Launch siteBaikonur 200/39
Orbital parameters
Reference systemGeocentric
Longitude61.5° West (planned)
34.8° East (operational)
Perigee altitude35,615.9 kilometres (22,130.7 mi)
Apogee altitude35,971.8 kilometres (22,351.8 mi)
Inclination13.1 degrees[1]
0 degrees planned

AMC-14 is a communications satellite. Initially owned by SES Americom, AMC-14 was designed to be placed in geostationary orbit, following launch on a Proton rocket. Built by Lockheed Martin and based on the A2100 satellite bus, AMC-14 was to have been located at 61.5° west longitude for DISH Network service.

It was launched atop a Proton-M/Briz-M rocket at 23:18:55 GMT on 14 March 2008, from LC-200/39 at the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan. The satellite was placed in an unusable orbit, following a malfunction of the Briz-M upper stage. Over a six-month period, it was maneuvered into a geosynchronous orbit, and is now near 35° East and in an inclined orbit.[2]


AMC-14 is based on the A2100AX platform, and includes 32 Ku-band transponders to provide 24 MHz of bandwidth each. The spacecraft antenna were originally designed to operate over either of two orbital arcs: 61.5°W to 77°W or 110°W to 148°W. AMC-14 carries an active phased array demonstration payload that allows coverage to be reshaped on orbit.[1]

Launch anomaly

An anomaly occurred during the second burn of the Briz-M upper stage.[3] As a result, the satellite failed to reach the planned orbit. The Russian commission investigating the anomaly determined the cause to be a rupture of the gas duct between the gas generator and the propellant pump turbine in the Briz M main engine, which caused the upper stage engine to shut down two minutes early.[4]

AMC-14 was the 36th A2100 spacecraft and was expected to provide more than 15 years of service life. SES and Lockheed Martin explored ways to attempt to bring the functioning satellite into its correct orbital position, and subsequently began attempting to move the satellite into geosynchronous orbit by means of a lunar flyby (as done a decade earlier with HGS-1).

In April 2008, it was announced that this had been abandoned after discovery that Boeing held a patent[5] on the trajectory that would be required.[6] At the time, a lawsuit was ongoing between SES and Boeing, and Boeing refused to allow the trajectory to be used unless SES dropped its case.[6] Another company had expressed interest in purchasing the satellite; however. SES began procedures to expedite the satellite's immediate de-orbit.[6] While it is expected[by whom?] that the patent would not stand up to legal challenge, SES intend to de-orbit the spacecraft in order to collect the insurance payout.[6] If this attempt had been successful, the extra use of fuel needed to correct the orbital error would have significantly reduced AMC-14's originally expected service life of 15 years to just four.[7][8][9]

Satellite's fate

SES Americom told its insurers that the AMC-14 was a total loss because it was in the wrong orbit and could not be moved into correct orbit, according to Thomson Financial. The satellite was fully insured for about $150 million, so SES would not incur a loss. Officials stated that they had evaluated several options for recovering the marooned satellite. Saving AMC 14 would have used much of the satellite's operational maneuvering propellant, significantly reducing its useful life from the 15-year expectation before launch.[10]

On 23 April 2008, it was reported that SES was in talks with a United States Department of Defense agency, presumably[by whom?] the National Reconnaissance Office (the agency that operates satellites for the DoD), over purchasing the satellite.[11] It was understood[by whom?] that several other bids, including one from Echostar, have been received.[citation needed] Most of the commercial companies were intending to use the Lunar flyby trajectory option to correct the orbital inclination of the satellite, while the US DoD planned to leave the satellite in an inclined orbit.[11] It was understood[by whom?] that SES preferred the DoD bid, as they did not want a customer to prove to insurers that the lunar flyby option would have resulted in a commercially viable service life.[11] There were some concerns over the legality of a purchase by the US Government, under the 1998 Commercial Space Act.[12]

In anticipation of the US Government's offer being viewed as illegal, an independent European/Asian investment group made a counteroffer to the insurers that called for a minimum upfront cash payment of US$15 million with the intention of returning the satellite to a geosynchronous orbit using the lunar flyby mission and thereafter providing commercial services. Negotiations were slow to start in spite of the alternative $10M purchase proposal from the US Government which was 33% lower than the improved offer from the European/Asian investment group.[citation needed]

The first signs of an orbital adjustment maneuver became evident one day after SES announced it was in sales negotiations on 24 April 2008, when the satellite's perigee rose by about 35 mi (56 km) to 483 mi (777 km) along with a slight rise in apogee to 35572 km.[13] Also, for comparison, at the time Inclination was 48.989, Eccentricity was 0.708, and it had an orbital time of 638.12 min. As of 6 August, AMC-14 orbit is vastly different. Figures for perigee (periapsis), apogee (apoapsis) and Inclination are given in the info box at the beginning of this article, Inclination has dropped to 17.7 and Eccentricity has decreased to 0.199.[1]

As of January 29, 2009, after more than 6 months of low-thrust maneuvering, AMC-14 had finally reached an inclined (13.1°) geosynchronous orbit at 34.8°East[1][14] under US DoD ownership.[15]

See also


  1. ^ a b c d AMC-14 Satellite details 2008-011A NORAD 32708, REAL TIME SATELLITE TRACKING
  2. ^[dead link]
  3. ^ "ILS declares Proton launch anomaly". International Launch Services. March 14, 2008. Archived from the original on 2008-03-18.
  4. ^ "Russian Commission Determines Cause of AMC-14 Breeze M Failure". International Launch Services. April 21, 2008. Archived from the original on 2008-04-26.
  5. ^ U.S. Patent 6,116,545
  6. ^ a b c d "Boeing Patent Shuts Down AMC-14 Lunar Flyby Salvage Attempt". SpaceDaily. April 10, 2008.
  7. ^ Dickson, Glen (March 14, 2008). "Dish Network Suffers Failed Satellite Launch". Broadcasting & Cable.
  8. ^ Moss, Linda (March 17, 2008). "Satellite Snafu Will Delay Dish Network's HD Expansion". Multichannel News.
  9. ^ Savitz, Eric (March 17, 2008). "DISH Network Satellite Launch Could Be Total Loss". Barron's.
  10. ^ Newby, Andrew (April 11, 2008). "SES Americom declares AMC-14 satellite a total loss; sees $150 mln payout". Thomson Financial.
  11. ^ a b c Mansfield, Simon (April 23, 2008). "SES Negotiating To Sell AMC-14 To US Government Agency". SpaceDaily.
  12. ^ H.R. 1702, The Commercial Space Act of 1997, Congressional Budget Office
  13. ^ "AMC-14 story gets more interesting". SatelliteGuys.US forum. Archived from the original on September 27, 2011.
  14. ^ "Stranded satellite finally reaches geosynchronous orbit". Satellite News Digest. January 29, 2009. (subscription required)
  15. ^ Gunter's Space Page AMC-14
  • "AMC-14 Satellite Slated for March 15 Launch" (Press release). SES Americom. February 20, 2008.
  • "Lockheed Martin-Built AMC-14 Satellite Ready For Launch From Baikonur Cosmodrome" (Press release). Lockheed Martin. March 12, 2008. Archived from the original on 2008-03-15.