Tag Archives: Mission Extension Vehicle

Northrop Grumman about to launch second mission extension robot

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.

DARPA finally picks Northrop Grumman for satellite servicing

Capitalism in space: Following the successful docking of Northrop Grumman’s Mission Extension Vehicle-1 (MEV) to a decommissioned commercial communications satellite on February 27, 2020, DARPA has finally selected that company as its partner in its government-funded satellite servicing program.

For reasons that have been puzzling, DARPA previously rejected the MEV and chose in 2017 as its partner what was then a mostly Canadian company, causing legal protests. That company however backed out of the program in January, and with the success of MEV, DARPA could no longer justify its strange aversion to Northrop Grumman.

Northrop Grumman had planned to market MEV to commercial companies. The infusion of support from DARPA will accelerate that process.