Orbital ATK to launch robotic servicing mission

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The competition heats up: Orbital ATK has signed Intelsat to the first contract for a private robotic servicing mission to defunct commercial communications satellites.

Orbital ATK is offering the Mission Extension Vehicle (MEV), a spacecraft designed to rendezvous with a commercial satellite and dock to the nozzle of its apogee kick motor and surrounding adapter ring. The MEV would then take over propulsion and attitude control for the satellite, offering up to five years of extended life.

Intelsat has agreed to be the customer for the first MEV mission, named MEV-1 and scheduled for launch in 2018. MEV-1 will first dock with a retired satellite in a graveyard orbit above stationary orbit to test its systems, then dock with an active Intelsat satellite to extend its life for five years.

I like the concept. Unlike other much more complicated proposals, which propose to actually refuel the satellite’s original tank, this is simple, quick, and quite doable for relatively little developmental cost. Orbital ATK already as the technology to do the rendezvous, from its Cygnus freighter. All they need to refine is the specific technology to attach to the specific satellites.


  • wodun

    That’s pretty cool. Sort of like a tug. It’s too bad they have to spend so much time, effort, and money lobbying congress to allow it to happen.

  • Dick Eagleson

    The government is entirely uninvolved in this effort so far as I can tell. The deal is between Intelsat and Orbital-ATK, both of which are private enterprises. Orbital does a lot of government wheedling, to be sure, but this initiative looks to be entirely unconnected to any of that.

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