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Scheduled for retirement by Russia and having its entire commercial business taken by SpaceX, Russia’s Proton rocket today successfully launched its last commercial mission.
The primary payload was a European communications satellite. The secondary payload is more significant as it is Northrop Grumman’s Mission Extension Vehicle (MEV-1), designed to grab defunct satellites that are out of fuel and bring them back to life using its own fuel and engines.
The docking mechanism of the MEV spacecraft allows it to link up with a spacecraft which carries no specialized rendezvous and docking hardware. According to Northrop Grumman, MEV, can use its proximity sensors and docking hardware to reliably attach itself to 80 percent of typical satellites deployed in geostationary orbit. The developer also said that after completing the work assisting the first spacecraft, the MEV vehicle could be undocked and moved multiple times during its more than 15-year operational life span to support satellites from other customers.
They plan to revive one of Intelsat’s satellites and operate it for five years.
The leaders in the 2019 launch race:
6 Europe (Arianespace)
The U.S. and China remain tied at 19 in the national rankings.