Northrop Grumman says customers are ‘lined up’ for on-orbit satellite servicing

SpaceLogistics designed the Mission Extension Pods so as to add as much as six years of service life to satellites in geostationary orbit

WASHINGTON — SpaceLogistics, a satellite-servicing agency owned by Northrop Grumman, final week efficiently fired the electrical propulsion system it’s growing for the Mission Extension Pods it plans to launch in 2024.

“It’s continuing nicely. We achieved first gentle,” Rob Hauge, president of SpaceLogistics, instructed reporters March 24 on the Satellite tv for pc 2022 convention. 

The Mission Extension Pods, or MEPs, are propulsion jet packs that will probably be put in on shopper satellites in orbit by a Mission Robotic Automobile (MRV) that SpaceLogistics is also growing.

The auxiliary propulsion units have been designed to increase the service lifetime of satellites in geostationary orbit by as much as six years. Australian satellite tv for pc operator Optus would be the first buyer for the MEP. 

“We’ve obtained an entire bunch of corporations which might be lined up prepared to make use of it, which tells us that the market is there,” Hauge stated. 

SpaceLogistics is growing the electrical propulsion for the MEPs in-house so a profitable first firing was a big step, he stated. There was no off-the-shelf propulsion system available on the market that match the scale requirement so Northrop Grumman is growing its personal. The corridor thruster engine is being examined at NASA’s Glenn Analysis Heart.

The plan is to launch the three,000 kilogram MRV and three MEPs every about 400 kilograms on a SpaceX rocket in 2024. They are going to be launched from the launch automobile, independently deploy and lift themselves to a geostationary orbit.

As soon as in orbit every MEP will probably be captured by the MRV and transported to the shopper satellite tv for pc. After delivering the MEP to the shopper automobile, 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. Hauge stated there are 5 nonetheless undisclosed clients that have already got signed up for the service. 

Hauge stated the MEP was conceived as a extra environment friendly and decrease price servicing choice than the Mission Extension Automobiles that SpaceLogistics first launched in 2019. 

Two MEVs are in orbit docked with two Intelsat geostationary satellites that have been operating low on gas.

Hauge stated there are not any plans to construct any extra MEVs. The 2 present autos will keep in orbit for about 15 years. SpaceLogistics expects most satellite tv for pc operators will choose the MRV and the propulsion pods as a result of it’s cheaper.

The MEP is a unique enterprise mannequin. The propulsion pack is delivered on orbit, he defined. “We use our MRV to dock it to the satellite tv for pc, we practice the operators, we give them the software program and so they fly that satellite tv for pc.”

The MEV is the scale of a minivan, stays docked to the shopper and primarily flies the opposite satellite tv for pc, stated Hauge. The corporate doesn’t disclose pricing however Hauge stated an MEV lease can run as a lot as one-quarter to one-half of the price of a geostationary satellite tv for pc. “With Intelsat, they function their payload and we’re flying their satellite tv for pc.”  

Intelsat has five-year contracts and has the choice to increase it. If it doesn’t, there are a number of telecommunications satellite tv for pc corporations that wish to use it, stated Hauge. 

The MEP is much more cost effective than the MEV, he stated. “It was designed to fulfill all of the wants for station protecting at a value level that makes it worthwhile for a satellite tv for pc supplier.” For many clients which might be incomes revenues from their satellites, including six years of service life is a no brainer, he stated. 

Hauge stated he’s briefed the capabilities of the MEP to officers on the U.S. House Drive’s House Methods Command and the corporate hopes to generate authorities curiosity in utilizing the system to increase the lifetime of navy satellites. 

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