Capitalism in space: The success of Northrop Grumman’s first Mission Extension Vehicle (MEV-1) to dock with a dead communications satellite and bring it back to life has set the stage for the second MEV, set for launch on an Ariane 5 before the end of the month.
For MEV-1’s mission, Intelsat decommissioned the 901 satellite and moved it up into the GEO graveyard for rendezvous and docking operations.
However, the main result of the excellent performance of MEV-1 and a full demonstration of the docking and capture process is that MEV-2 will not be required to rendezvous with its target in the GEO graveyard. Nor will the satellite be deactivated. Instead, MEV-2 will move directly to the main operational GEO belt and approach Intelsat 10-02 while the satellite is still actively relaying telecommunications. “Intelsat has confirmed their desire on the next MEV, MEV-2, to do the docking directly in GEO orbit. They will be maintaining customer traffic as we do the docking with MEV-2,” noted Mr. Anderson.
This new approach, which was always the goal for future MEV operations, was aided in large part by confirmation to a high degree of accuracy that all of MEV’s systems worked as planned during Intelsat 901 operations.
The article notes that this concept could even be extended to sending a robot to Hubble to provide it accurate pointing capability when its last gyroscopes finally fail, thus extending the life of that space telescope even farther beyond its original planned fifteen year lifespan that ended in 2005.
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