Northrop Grumman’s MEV-1 servicer docks with Intelsat satellite

WASHINGTON — Northrop Grumman’s satellite tv for pc servicing spacecraft efficiently docked with an Intelsat communications satellite tv for pc Feb. 25 in a bid to maintain the practically 19-year-old satellite tv for pc in service a further 5 years, Northrop Grumman and Intelsat executives mentioned Feb. 26. 

Northrop Grumman’s Mission Extension Car-1, which launched in October, underwent months of in-orbit testing earlier than lastly docking with Intelsat-901 in a so-called graveyard orbit 300 kilometers above the geostationary arc the place most giant communications satellites function. The docking occurred Feb. 25 at 2:15 a.m. Japanese. 

MEV-1 and Intelsat-901 will endure further checkouts as a mixed stack earlier than Northrop Grumman strikes them into the geostationary arc so Intelsat-901 can resume service in late March. MEV-1 will stay hooked up to Intelsat-901 and use its personal thrusters to maintain the satellite tv for pc correctly oriented in orbit.

“That is the primary time in historical past a docking has ever been carried out with a satellite tv for pc that was not pre-designed with docking in thoughts, and the primary time two business satellites have ever docked,” mentioned Joe Anderson, vp of operations and enterprise growth at SpaceLogistics, Northrop Grumman’s subsidiary targeted on satellite tv for pc servicing, on a Feb. 26 name with reporters. 

MEV-1 launched on an Worldwide Launch Companies Proton rocket in early October and used onboard electrical propulsion to boost its orbit to that of Intelsat-901’s by Feb. 1, Anderson mentioned. The two,300-kilogram servicer then accomplished a collection of calibrations and assessments of cameras and rendezvous programs whereas approaching Intelsat-901, pausing 80 meters from the satellite tv for pc Feb. 24, Anderson mentioned. 

The subsequent day Northrop Grumman moved MEV-1 subsequent to Intelsat-901 and docked with the satellite tv for pc utilizing a seize mechanism that went “by the throat” of Intelsat-901’s apogee engine, Anderson mentioned. 

Northrop Grumman is at the moment constructing a second MEV for Intelsat that’s on monitor to launch later this 12 months, in line with Tom Wilson, SpaceLogistics president and vp of Northrop Grumman Area Methods. Arianespace is slated to launch MEV-2 on an Ariane 5 rocket.

A Intelsat government advised reporters Feb. 26 that the MEV-1 docking operation went so nicely that the staff plans to dock MEV-2 with its host satellite tv for pc in geostationary orbit reasonably than take it briefly out of service to be able to conduct the rendezvous in the next orbit. 

“It is a good pathway to the subsequent docking for MEV-2, which we intend to do with prospects on the satellite tv for pc,” mentioned Jean-Luc Froeliger, Intelsat’s vp of satellite tv for pc operations and engineering. “We’re very assured that we are going to have minimal perturbations of our providers on our subsequent docking.”

Intelsat has not publicly recognized the host satellite tv for pc for the MEV-2 mission. 

In designing the MEV servicing spacecraft, Northrop Grumman mixed its GEOStar communications satellite tv for pc bus with components of the Cygnus cargo tug the corporate makes use of to ship provides to Worldwide Area Station, Anderson mentioned. 

Northrop Grumman had beforehand anticipated to launch MEV-1 in 2018. Wilson mentioned the extra 12 months of preparation allowed Northrop Grumman to include further security measures, such because the inclusion of patented expertise to keep away from electrostatic discharges on orbit. 

Intelsat is Northrop Grumman’s first and to date solely buyer for MEV satellite tv for pc life extension missions. Now that MEV-1 has demonstrated its capacity to dock, Northrop Grumman is hopeful it will possibly entice new prospects.

“For years we heard prospects say, ‘if you happen to have been there now we might use your service.’ Now we’re right here,” Wilson mentioned. 

MEVs are designed for 15 years of service, which means Northrop Grumman can ultimately use MEV-1 and the long run MEV-2 to service spacecraft past its Intelsat contracts.

Wilson mentioned that whereas nothing precludes Northrop Grumman from constructing further MEVs past the primary two, the corporate is targeted on one other system that makes use of a so-called Mission Robotic Car mothership to connect smaller Mission Extension Pods to satellites. Northrop Grumman has three potential prospects focused on utilizing the next-generation pod system, Wilson mentioned. 

Intelsat CEO Stephen Spengler mentioned Intelsat-901 will enter service on the 332.5 levels east orbital slot, the place it would cowl North and South America, Africa and Europe utilizing C-band transponders and steerable Ku-band beams. The satellite tv for pc will exchange Intelsat-907, a 17-year-old satellite tv for pc now 4 years previous its design life. 

Intelsat-901 and Intelsat-907 are practically an identical satellites, Spengler mentioned. The MEVs permit Intelsat to defer spending on new substitute satellites by retaining outdated however nonetheless helpful satellites in service, he mentioned. 

Intelsat-901 had just a few months of remaining gas earlier than it could have wanted to retire for good in a graveyard orbit, Froeliger mentioned. 

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