An illustration mission of Northrop Grumman’s first-ever Mission Extension Vehicle (MEV-1) has confirmed successful, extending the lifetime of an Intelsat satellite by 5 years. The mission concerned Northrop’s MEV docking with Intelsat’s IS-901 satellite in orbit on February 25, after which it altered the orbit of the Intelsat spacecraft to bury it extra working time.
While the unique docking occurred in late February, the MEV has spent the meantime altering the orbit of IS-901, and Intelsat has since additionally transitioned a few of its clients to the beforehand inactive satellite to be used of its communication providers. It’s now offering “full service,” the companies announced, and can proceed to take action for one more 5 years, earlier than the MEV returns it to its decommissioned orbit for ultimate retirement. At that point, MEV-1 will turn into out there once more for different area tug missions, in a position to carry out the identical service for one more satellite.
This is a giant step in phrases of orbital sustainability and in-space servicing and life extension, specific for Northrop Grumman, which might now supply this as a service. For Intelsat, the corporate sees it as a “cost-effective and environment friendly method” to proceed to supply uninterrupted service and handle buyer wants with out requiring constructing and launching a completely new satellite, the discharge notes.
There’s been a shift in the business away from giant, geosynchronous satellites to fleets of small, agile low-Earth orbit smallsats, owing to price concerns. Orbital servicing might assist present another choice, however for now it’s prone to attraction extra to legacy area business satellite operators than to the newer constellation startups.
Northrop is planning a second MEV spacecraft to launch to service one other Intelsat satellite later this yr, nevertheless, so it does appear like it could possibly be a market in the near-term, and it might change the economics of bigger spacecraft in future, too.