Tag Archives: MEV-1

Orbital ATK gets its second contract for its satellite repair robot

Capitalism in space: Orbital ATK has signed a second contract to build another Mission Extension Vehicle (MEV), designed to robotically extend the life of old but usable satellites.

The vehicle was ordered by Intelsat S.A. to provide life extension services for an Intelsat satellite. Orbital ATK is now producing MEV-1, the industry’s first commercial in-space satellite servicing system, for Intelsat with launch scheduled for late 2018. Under this new agreement, Orbital ATK will manufacture, test and launch MEV-2 and begin mission extension services in mid-2020. The production of the second MEV is part of Orbital ATK’s longer-range plan to establish a fleet of in-orbit servicing vehicles that can address diverse space logistics needs including repair, assembly, refueling and in-space transportation.

“Work on MEV-1 is progressing rapidly toward a late 2018 launch with system-level testing beginning this spring,” said Tom Wilson, President of Orbital ATK’s Space Logistics, LLC subsidiary. “With the launch of MEV-2, Orbital ATK will continue to pioneer in-space satellite servicing for commercial operators. Intelsat’s commitment to a second MEV demonstrates not only the market demand for our servicing vehicles, but also the customer’s confidence in our product.”

Through its Space Logistics subsidiary, Orbital ATK will introduce in-orbit commercial satellite servicing with MEV-1 late this year. The MEV is based on the company’s GEOStarTM spacecraft platform, and controlled by the company’s satellite operations team. The MEV uses a reliable, low-risk docking system that attaches to existing features on a customer’s satellite, and provides life-extending services by taking over the orbit maintenance and attitude control functions of the client’s spacecraft. Each MEV vehicle has a 15 year design life with the ability to perform numerous dockings and repositionings during its life span.

What Orbital ATK here is doing is creating a entirely new cottage industry with the satellite industry, providing satellite companies an inexpensive way to maintain their satellite networks without building and launching a whole new communications satellite. Once Orbital has placed a number of these in orbit, they will be available to move from satellite to satellite. Once their first repair job is finally finished, they will then move on to another at relatively little cost.

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Orbital ATK gets first FCC license approval for space repair mission

Capitalism in space: Orbital ATK has gotten its first FCC license approval for its Mission Extension Vehicle 1 (MEV-1) robotic space repair mission, set to launch late in 2018.

Space Logistics [a subsidiary of Orbital ATK] has a contract with fleet operator Intelsat of Washington and Luxembourg to provide in-orbit servicing with MEV-1 — the first in a proposed fleet of satellite servicers Dulles, Virginia-based Orbital ATK intends to build — with service beginning in early 2019.

In a public notice issued Dec. 8, the FCC authorized Space Logistics to use four different frequency bands for telemetry, tracking, and command (TT&C) of MEV-1 as the servicer completes post-launch maneuvers, reaches the graveyard orbit for decommissioned geostationary satellites some 300 kilometers above the geosynchronous arc, and attaches to Intelsat-901.

Space Logistics’ MEVs works by connecting to a satellite and taking over station-keeping, using fuel onboard the servicer to propel the satellite and extend its life. Most geostationary satellites are forced into retirement after 15 years or more due to a shortage of fuel. “It is in our plan for Intelsat-901 that at the end of the five-year life extension mission that we would return the IS-901 to the graveyard orbit and release them there. After that release the MEV would then proceed onto our next client,” Anderson said, adding that the next client has not yet been identified.

They will still need to obtain additional permits from both the FCC (for future operations) and from NOAA (because the spacecraft’s cameras, needed for docking, might also look at the Earth).

Why NOAA has this permitting power astonishes me, but then, in today’s government-run America, I probably should not be surprised. If we were trying to settle the west today we would likely have a whole range of government agencies requiring wagon train approval, route approval, and scheduling approval.

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Orbital ATK begins assembly of first orbital repair satellite

Capitalism in space: Orbital ATK has begun the assembly of Mission Extension Vehicle 1, (MEV-1), designed to attach itself to commercial satellites and extend their life.

Controlled by the company’s satellite operations team, the MEV 1 uses a reliable, low-risk docking system that attaches to existing features on a customer’s satellite. The MEV-1 provides life-extending services by taking over the orbit maintenance and attitude control functions of the client’s spacecraft. The vehicle has a 15 year design life with the ability to perform numerous dockings and repositionings during its life span.

They hope to launch before the end of 2018. Meanwhile, the legal battle between Orbital ATK’s effort to build this satellite repair mission and DARPA’s effort to subsidize SSL’s own satellite repair mission continues in Congress with the introduction of two amendments favoring Orbital ATK.

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Russia gets two contracts for Proton

The competition heats up: Russia has signed two new contracts using its newly announced Proton-Medium rocket configuration.

Both contracts are for the same launch. The primary payload will be a Intelsat communications satellite. The secondary payload will be Orbital ATK’s first Mission Extension Vehicle (MEV-1), which is actually more significant and somewhat ground-breaking.

The MEV-1 provides life-extending services by taking over the propulsion and attitude control functions. Satellites have an average of 15 years of life on orbit, before they need to be replaced. The vehicle itself has a 15-year design life with the ability to perform numerous dockings and undockings during its life span. “Rather than launching new satellites, operators can extend the life of healthy in-orbit satellites, providing enhanced flexibility through Orbital ATK’s scalable and cost-efficient capabilities,” noted Our simple approach minimizes risk, enhances mission assurance, and enables our customers to realize the maximum value of their in-orbit satellite assets.”

The launch of MEV-1 will involve in-orbit testing and a demonstration to be performed with an Intelsat satellite. MEV-1 will then relocate to the Intelsat satellite scheduled for the mission extension service, which is planned for a five-year period. Intelsat will also have the option to service multiple satellites using the same MEV.

If MEV-1 proves successful, Orbital ATK will have built, launched, and made money from the first robot repair satellite. While at first glance this success suggests that satellite companies will need to launch fewer satellites, thus reducing the market demand for rockets, what it will really do is make the orbiting satellite more useful and profitable, thus encouraging new players to enter the market. The demand for satellites will increase, thus increasing the demand for rockets.

Ain’t freedom and private enterprise grand?

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Orbital ATK to launch robotic servicing mission

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.

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