AT&T Satellite Malfunction

The following reports appeared regarding a malfunction of the AT&T Telstar 401 satellite:

Daily News Note from 1/13/97 on the Space News web site
The following is a News Item on the Space News web site:

Daily News Note -- 1/13/97

AT&T lost contact with its Telestar 401 satellite early Saturday (1/11/1) morning and has not been able to communicate with the spacecraft since, company spokesman David Thompson said Monday.

It is unknown what caused the malfunction, Thompson said, but AT&T is working with the satellite*s manufacturer, Lockheed Martin of Bethesda, Md., to correct the problem.

The satellite, launched in 1993, broadcasts television shows from national networks to local affiliates nationwide.

National networks have been switched to other satellites to continue service but other AT&T customers, such as the South Carolina Educational Television Network, remain out of service, Thompson said.

AT&T is trying to switch all its customers to other satellites until the problem is fixed, Thompson said.

AP story from USA Today on 1/14/97
Subject: AP story from USA TODAY

Date: Wednesday, January 15, 1997 9:12AM

01/14/97 - 01:46 PM ET - Click reload often for latest version

Key AT&T satellite falls silent ahead of sale to Loral

NEW YORK - AT&T Corp. has been working since Saturday (1/11/97) to re-establish contact with an important broadcast satellite about to be sold to Loral Space & Communications Ltd.

Telstar 401, which beams signals for a number of big customers like ABC, Fox and PBS, went down Saturday morning and by Tuesday service had not been restored. No network was forced off the air by the outage and most customers' signals have been rerouted.

"We still haven't determined the cause," said Mike Granieri, an AT&T spokesman. "And until you determine the cause you can't put a fix on it - or even know if there is a fix."

The satellite's difficulties could be significant for Loral, which in late September agreed to buy AT&T's Skynet Satellite Services, which includes Telstar 401, for $712.5 million. The deal was expected to be completed in the first quarter of this year.

Jeanette Clonan, a Loral spokeswoman, said it is "premature yet for us to speculate yet on what impact it will have on the transaction." Granieri echoed her sentiment.

Telstar 401 is one of the two Skynet satellites that, until Saturday, were fully functioning. The other, Telstar 402R, took rerouted network signals right away following 401's difficulties.

Skynet has two other Telstar satellites in orbit, 302 and 303, but they are near the end of their useful lives. Telstar 302 is no longer broadcasting and 303 is only in limited use. Telstar 401 and the others are geostationary satellites, meaning they are fixed above a single spot on the Earth.

Satellites like the Telstars beam TV programs, phone calls and computer data around the country.

Robert Kaimowitz, a satellite industry analyst at Unterberg Harris, an investment banking firm, said if Telstar 401 is not restored to operation, the loss would be a rare but not necessarily catastrophic event. That's because satellites are typically insured for in-flight loss.

"Assuming that the satellite is insured properly, the insurance would become a cash asset," he said. "An in-orbit satellite is clearly worth more, because you get a recurring revenue stream."

On the plus side, though, the insurance money could be used to launch a new, more powerful satellite. It costs about $200 million to build, insure and launch satellites like the Telstar series. There are already plans to launch Telstar 5 this summer and two others in the future.

Granieri confirmed Telstar 401 was insured but declined to be more specific.

Loral Space, the company left over when Lockheed Martin Corp. bought Loral Corp.'s defense businesses, is involved in a host of satellite ventures. AT&T, which recently completed a three-way split to focus on its main businesses, first announced the Telstar 401 outage Saturday.

By The Associated Press

AT&T Press Release on 1/15/97
Subject: AT&T Press Release

Date: Wednesday, January 15, 1997 9:16AM

AT&T Telstar 401 satellite experiences service interruption

BEDMINSTER, N.J. -- AT&T said that its Telstar 401 satellite experienced an abrupt failure of its telemetry and communications this morning (1/11/97) at 6:15 a.m. Eastern Standard Time affecting service for all customers.

AT&T immediately restored service for customers whose contracts called for transfer of their transponder service to Telstar 402R in the case of a service outage.

AT&T and Lockheed Martin, the manufacturer of the satellite, are working to determine the root cause of the problem and AT&T is attempting to restore the remaining customers' service. AT&T is continuing to send commands to the satellite in an effort to restore service.

In the meantime, AT&T is also working with customers to find alternative ways to transmit their programming according to the terms of their individual contracts. This would include finding interim transponder capacity for them on other satellites.

For further information, reporters may contact:
Mike Granieri

Authors and curators:

Official NASA Contact: Mr. William Mish (
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Last updated: January 16, 1997