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Home Business Northrop Grumman robotic MEV-2 spacecraft, in a first, catches active Intelsat satellite

Northrop Grumman robotic MEV-2 spacecraft, in a first, catches active Intelsat satellite

The view from Northrop Grumman’s MEV-2 spacecraft because it approached to dock with Intelsat satellite IS-1002.


Two aerospace corporations achieved an trade first on Monday, as a small Northrop Grumman spacecraft docked efficiently with an active Intelsat satellite to supply service and lengthen its life.

Intelsat’s IS-1002 satellite is almost 18 years previous, and working effectively previous its anticipated lifespan, however the Northrop Grumman-built spacecraft known as MEV-2 will add one other 5 years of life to IS-1002, primarily re-fueling the satellite and giving it a new engine for management.

The firms hit a milestone in the rising enterprise of servicing satellites whereas in house.

“Today’s successful docking of our second Mission Extension Vehicle further demonstrates the reliability, safety and utility of in-space logistics,” Tom Wilson, vice chairman of Nothrop Grumman’s strategic house programs stated in a assertion. “The success of this mission paves the way for our second generation of servicing satellites and robotics, offering flexibility and resiliency for both commercial and government satellite operators, which can enable entirely new classes of missions.”

An in depth up have a look at Intelsat’s IS-1002 satellite as MEV-2 approached for docking in orbit.


Extending the lifetime of an active spacecraft in orbit has solely been performed with human assist earlier than—such because the Hubble telescope servicing missions performed by NASA astronauts.

Launched in August on an Arianespace Ariane 5 rocket, the robotic MEV-2 spent the final a number of months touring out to the satellite. MEV-2 then matched its orbit earlier than efficiently docking, whereas additionally offering distinctive imagery of the satellite because the spacecraft approached.

IS-1002 was launched in June 2004 and was solely meant to be in service for 13 years, offering broadband communications companies to Europe, South America, Africa and the Middle East. The satellite is in a fastened place above the Earth in what is named geosynchronous orbit—tens of 1000’s of miles as much as present as huge a protection space as successfully attainable.

The MEV-2 mission builds upon the success of Northrop Grumman’s MEV-1 mission final 12 months, which docked with an inactive Intelsat satellite. That satellite was in a “graveyard orbit,” which means it was not offering companies, however MEV-1 restored it and moved the satellite again into place.

The MEV-2 spacecraft, whereas much like MEV-1, took that mission a step additional by docking and lengthening the lifetime of a satellite at present in service.

Northern Sky Research, a satellite consulting agency, estimates that the marketplace for satellite servicing and life extensions is a $3.2 billion alternative over the subsequent decade.

The agency forecasts that there’s demand for servicing upward of 75 satellites by 2030, with firms and governments trying to lengthen the lifespan of sometimes costly geosynchronous equatorial orbit satellites, quite than launch replacements.

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