Capitalism in space: Northrop Grumman’s second Mission Extension Vehicle (MEV-2) is presently doing the last rendezvous maneuvers in the vicinity of one of Intelsat’s operating geosynchronous communications satellites in anticipation to its docking, when it will extend that satellite’s life by up to five years.
This is the second MEV to fly. The first successfully docked with a defunct 19-year-old satellite and brought it back into operation.
Meanwhile, in the Ukraine a new startup is proposing to use an upgrade of the automatic rendezvous and docking system once used by Progress and Soyuz capsules to create its own variation of MEV.
Kurs Orbital is raising $6.5 million in its first investment round this summer to start the demonstration vehicle that will rendezvous with an uncooperative object in low Earth orbit, he said. “I think that we will be on schedule for 2023 with a demonstration mission.”
The company plans to raise more money over the next few years to build a fleet of four vehicles to start offering de-orbiting services by 2025. Usov said de-orbiting is the low hanging fruit because it is a way to immediately help satellite operators make money.
Operators currently take geostationary satellites out of service to a graveyard orbit six to eight months before they are out of fuel. De-orbiting services would allow operators to keep the satellites in operation for several additional months and continue to generate revenues, Usov said. Those extra revenues would more than pay for the $10 million to $15 million de-orbiting service.
If successful, this company will be the third attempting to enter the robotic satellite serving business, with a number of others also aiming to make money removing space junk.
From the press release: From the moment he is handed a possibility of making the first alien contact, Saunders Maxwell decides he will do it, even if doing so takes him through hell and back.
Unfortunately, that is exactly where that journey takes him.
The vision that Zimmerman paints of vibrant human colonies on the Moon, Mars, the asteroids, and beyond, indomitably fighting the harsh lifeless environment of space to build new societies, captures perfectly the emerging space race we see today.
He also captures in Pioneer the heart of the human spirit, willing to push forward no matter the odds, no matter the cost. It is that spirit that will make the exploration of the heavens possible, forever, into the never-ending future.
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