Northrop Grumman to launch new satellite-servicing mission in 2024

The primary buyer for the Mission Robotic Automobile is Optus, Australia’s largest satellite tv for pc operator

WASHINGTON — SpaceLogistics, a satellite-servicing agency owned by Northrop Grumman, introduced Feb. 21 it plans to ship to orbit a brand new servicing automobile in 2024 on a SpaceX rocket.

This would be the debut of the corporate’s Mission Robotic Automobile, a servicing spacecraft outfitted with a robotic arm that can set up propulsion jet packs on dying satellites. The primary buyer for the MRV is Optus, Australia’s largest satellite tv for pc operator.

SpaceLogistics vp Joseph Anderson instructed table4 that the MRV was constructed with lots of the identical applied sciences used within the firm’s Mission Extension Autos. Two MEVs are in orbit presently offering station-keeping providers for 2 Intelsat geostationary satellites that had been working low on gas.

The MRV’s robotic arm was developed by the U.S. Naval Analysis Laboratory with funding from the Protection Superior Analysis Tasks Company. DARPA in 2020 signed an settlement with Northrop Grumman permitting the corporate to make use of the robotic payload on the MRV in alternate for entry to expertise demonstrations and program knowledge. 

The MRV and three propulsion jet packs — generally known as Mission Extension Pods — are actually being assembled at Northrop Grumman’s facility in Dulles, Virginia. Anderson stated all three pods will launch in 2024 with the MRV — one will probably be put in on an Optus satellite tv for pc and the opposite two are for different prospects that haven’t but been introduced. 

The MEPs are propulsion units designed to increase the service lifetime of a 2,000 kilogram satellite tv for pc by six years. 

The mission in 2024 will launch the MRV — a 3,000 kilogram spacecraft — and three MEPs, every about 400 kilograms. The MRV and MEPs will probably be launched from the launch automobile, independently deploy and lift themselves to a geostationary orbit utilizing photo voltaic electrical propulsion.

As soon as in orbit every MEP is captured by the MRV and stowed for transport to the shopper satellite tv for pc. The MRV rendezvous and docks with the shopper to put in the MEP, which operates like an auxiliary propulsion gadget and makes use of its personal thrusters to maneuver the shopper automobile. Then the MRV detaches itself and strikes on to seize one other MEP for the following buyer. The MRV is designed to remain in orbit for 10 years. 

Anderson stated the corporate expects to put in as many as 30 propulsion pods over the lifetime of the MRV. 

“Our manifest for the MRV is full by means of mid 2026,” he stated. In addition to Optus, 5 different prospects have signed time period sheets to buy mission extension pods. 

The corporate is just not disclosing the worth of its MRV providers. It’s a unique service than the MEV, Anderson defined. The MEP is offered as a product. “A part of that buy value consists of the set up in orbit, and we use our mission robotic automobile to do this set up.” SpaceLogistics owns the robotic automobile however the mission extension pod is owned and operated by the shopper.

The MRV makes use of the identical sensor applied sciences, the identical rendezvous and proximity operations ideas developed for the MEV, stated Anderson. “We eliminated the docking mechanism and changed it with the robotic payload from DARPA,” he added. “And the way in which we connect the MEP to the shopper automobile with a docking mechanism, that additionally has direct heritage and from the mission extension automobile.”

The MEV and MRV will service satellites in geosynchronous orbit. SpaceLogistics has no plans presently to offer providers in low Earth orbit, though it’d think about alternatives in particles elimination. 

“Definitely there’s a big particles challenge in low Earth orbit that someday will must be addressed,” stated Anderson. “Every little thing we’re doing at this time for satellite tv for pc servicing in GEO will be instantly utilized to mess mitigation in low Earth orbit or to different providers there, if and when prospects determine to pay for these sorts of providers.”

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