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Satellite knocked out by software

A malfunctioning satellite knocked out telecommunications across the North yesterday.

A malfunctioning satellite knocked out telecommunications across the North yesterday.

In total, 39 communities across the three territories and northern BC were affected, said Emily Younker, manager of corporate communication for Northwestel.

The only community in the Yukon that was impacted was Old Crow, and even there only landline long-distance service was knocked out.

The other territories were harder hit, losing internet, cellphones and long-distance service.

It was so bad in Nunavut that the territory ordered all non-emergency flights grounded.

Apparently software update caused the Telesat’s Anik F2 satellite to put itself into “safe mode” early yesterday morning.

“What it did is go into a self-preservation mode,” said John Flaherty, Telesat’s director of marketing. “When it does that, it powers itself down and turns away from the earth and points its solar arrays at the sun to ensure it stays powered.”

Telsat was able to get the satellite back up and running late last night.

“Essentially it’s like rebooting software,” said Flaherty.

But complicated by the fact that the device being restarted is floating over 100 kilometres above the Earth.

“It’s a time-consuming process, repointing the satellite and restoring operations,” he said.

Just to be on the safe side Telsat decided to not reload that particular software update again.

Contact Josh Kerr at

Crappy vandalism

Vandals set fire to six portable toilets in Rotary Peace Park early Wednesday morning.

The Whitehorse fire department got a call about the fire at 1:23 a.m., said fire Chief Clive Sparks.

By the time they arrived, all six had gone up in flames, he said.

“They’re a plastic material so it doesn’t take much, once they get started they go fairly quickly,” said Sparks.

Some trees next to the toilets were also burned but no other structural damage, he said.

The fire department is still investigating the cause of the blaze but Sparks said it doesn’t look like an accident.

Initial estimates of the damage put the cost at around $30,000.

“It’s a disappointing that acts of vandalism cost the city so much every year,” said Linda Rapp, parks and recreation manager.

The investigation is ongoing, and Sparks encourages anyone that may have seen anything to report it to the RCMP. (Josh Kerr)

Contact Josh Kerr at