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A star trek, downwards…


Okay, listeners, don’t panic. But … the satellite we are located on is falling out of the sky.

It sounds like a joke. It’s actually true.

The good news: everything’s going to be okay.

Anik-F2, the satellite that faithfully beamed the CKUA signal to our 16 transmitters across the province for the past four years, started its involuntary descent on August 1.

We knew it was going to happen. It just happened a little earlier than expected.

Poor Anik-F2 suffered an “anomaly” in 2020. Strangely, no one was there to witness it, some 37,000 km above earth. Most likely it was a solar flare or a meteor shower.

Initially it was thought the almost-6,000 kg satellite would live on to 2024 or 2025. A few months ago it became clear this wasn’t going to happen.

“It’s been a really interesting conundrum,” says Adam Mitchell, CKUA’s Chief Operating Officer. “Watching our team and some business partners come together to find a solution quickly and one that’s exciting has been gratifying.”

Anik-F2 kept valiantly beaming out the CKUA signal as it fell. Only a day after it began slipping out of its orbit, however, our monitors started showing signal disruptions.

CKUA’s IT and Broadcast Services team quickly cut the satellite connection, triggering the backup broadband internet system. Thus, the music keeps playing. However, some listeners could experience audio disruption.

“The quality of the audio a listener gets will depend on the quality of the internet in their area,” says Alex Hall, CKUA’s IT and Broadcast Services Director. “We’ll be monitoring it.”

“Let us know if you experience any issues in your community and we’ll address it as quickly as possible,” says Adam.

So, goodbye Anik-F2. Onwards and upwards! Introducing the SES-15, an all-electric, 2,337 kg geostationary beauty.

Before connecting to SES-15, CKUA’s team of technicians and engineers must spend up to five days at each of the 16 transmitter sites, upgrading the equipment.

Once everything is up and running and we’re back on satellite transmission, listeners should notice crisper, cleaner audio. 

“The reality is that we’ve been on the same satellite for many years, using technology that’s been up in the sky for many years and the opportunity to move to a new satellite and new technology is an important part of CKUA staying up to date,” says Adam.

It’s a major project and one that needed to happen to keep CKUA’s donor-supported signal strong for years to come.

“I think it’s important that people know what it takes to make this radio happen, that a community-supported radio station has this scale of infrastructure,” says Adam. “The donors are a part of making that happen every day.”

These upgrades are costing CKUA about $250,000. It’s a major expenditure not foreseen for 2023. If you’d like to give to help CKUA manage the satellite situation without making cuts elsewhere, please donate here.

Our new satellite is projected to live until 2047. Watch out for those meteors, SES-15.