Lights out in the satellite truck
During the first show of the day on Monday, March 3rd, I was sitting in the satellite truck watching the show when all of a sudden the lights went out. And so did everything else. The monitors went out, the equipment went dark, and it got really quiet. The power was out and we were off the air! I thought about calling the director to tell him what happened but the communications box was dead as well.
My first priority was to get the truck back up and running. I began to warm up the glow plugs to start the diesel generator. Diesel engines don't use spark plugs like regular gasoline engines, they instead use glow plugs that have to be hot before a diesel engine can be started. Once I had the diesel engine running, I transferred the power to the generator and began to bring the equipment back on line. The transmitters take the longest time to restart because they have Traveling Wave Tubes (TWT's) in them. Similar to tube type televisions, TWT's are vacuum tubes with an electron gun that generate the power necessary to get the audio and video signals from the earth to the satellite in space. Once the TWT's were ready, we were back up and on the air. The whole process took less than a minute but it seemed longer than that.
I then began to investigate why the power went out. I checked the breaker and saw that it was blown. I found that strange because we were not using near enough electricity to blow the breaker. I then noticed the connectors in the power cable were crushed! We use two cables to power the truck and the connection between those two cables looked like it had been run over with a steam roller. That answered the question as to why the power went out, but it raised another. What happened? I had the connectors laying on top of a curb so cars wouldn't run over them, but this damage was more severe than anything a car tire could inflict. I also noticed tire tread marks going up and onto the curb where the damaged connectors were. They were very unusual tread marks. I looked around and saw the culprit. A large forklift with very hard tires that matched the tread pattern on the curb was parked right across from the damaged cables. We found our smoking gun. Since the connectors were damaged beyond repair we cut them off, wired the cables directly into the power panel, and were back to normal in no time. We also moved the cables away from the curb and onto the grass. Thank goodness nobody will be mowing this week because we are almost out of cable.
EDS Satellite Engineer