Orbcomm announced on their conference for investors on November 2, 2017 that issue which affected three of their second generation satellites is not general error with whole constellation.
Technical glitch appeared on August 2017 when three satellites from Orbcomm constellation suddenly lost contact with ground control stations. Company announced in August that operationality of constellation was not seriously affected and efficiency of the Orbcomm network was evaluated for 80%. Officially Company announced that three satellites which were lost in August suffered for communication issue and it is possible to recover them in future.
It was in fact not first Orbcomm’s problem with OG2 generation satellites. First spacecraft reentered in 2012 after underperformed Falcon-9 launch which resulted with injecting satellites below assumed orbit. Another two faulty satellites were delivered to orbit in two separate groups in 2014 and 2015 and failed in June 2015 and in 2016, when another satellite had problems with solar array. It later resulted with total loss in April 2017.
Unfortunately until now ground service teams of Sierra Nevada Corporation and MicroSat Systems (SNC was prime contractor, MicroSat provided satellite bus) were not able to force three affected satellites to resume communications. According to Orbcomm CEO Marc Eisenberg specialists and engineers haven’t found any general error in OG2 satellites, so 12 remaining on orbit seems to not be potentially under risk of failure.
Team of Orbcomm and contractors specialists also evaluated that it is highly possible that problem is generated by faulty flash memory units, as every few months satellites reported about these errors with this part. Restarting satellites which should solve problem with satellite bus is not recommended that stress caused by power cycling can damage payload (provided by Boeing).
Company plans to use Inmarsat’s L-band geostationary satellites to support OG2 LEO satellites when necessary. As Inmarsat decided to support Orbcomm, Company can launch OG3 without any rush. Utilizing GEO satellites to transmit data from ground to LEO satellites will speed up Orbcomm network as customers will not be forced to wait as OG2 satellite will flyby over their region; instead they will connect to Inmarsat satellite which will communicate with closest OG satellite from geostationary orbit.
Both companies will have ready components for data transfer between both constellations possible in 2018 and project will probably start in 2020, when first two I-6 satellites will be launched on the top of the H-IIA rocket.