In a first-of-its kind activity in space, a special spacecraft, Mission Extension Vehicle (MEV-1) from Northrop Grumman subsidiary SpaceLogistics LLC, docked with an out-of-orbit Intelsat 901 satellite and brought it back to its geostationary orbit.
The MEV-1 docked with the Intelsat 901 which was in a 'decaying' orbit and conducted a series of maneuvers to move the satellite into geostationary orbit.
Following the April 2 operation, some 30 commercial and government customers resumed work with this telecommunications satellite. Intelsat expects that the 901 satellite will work for another five years, a Northrop Grumman release said.
In February, the MEV-1 docked with Intelsat 901. This was the first ever docking of two commercial satellites in space. Over a period of two months, the MEV-1 guided the Intelsat 901 whose fuel had depleted, back to its designated orbit.
The MEV-1 will function like an additional engine to the Intelsat 901, receiving commands from ground control and firing its motors to stay in the designated orbit.
“This historic event, highlighted by the first in-orbit rendezvous and docking of two commercial satellites and the subsequent repositioning of the two-spacecraft stack, demonstrates the business value that MEV offers to customers. Now that MEV-1 has successfully delivered on its mission to place the Intelsat 901 satellite back into operational service, we will continue to pioneer the future of on-orbit servicing through our multi-year technology roadmap leading to additional services such as inspection, assembly and repair,” said Tom Wilson, vice president, Northrop Grumman Space Systems and president, SpaceLogistics, LLC.
Under the terms of the contract, Northrop Grumman and SpaceLogistics will provide five years of life extension services to IS-901 before returning the spacecraft to a final decommissioned orbit. MEV-1 will then be available to provide additional mission extension services for new clients including orbit raising, inclination corrections and inspections. Intelsat has already also contracted with Northrop Grumman for a second MEV (MEV-2) to service Intelsat 1002 satellite later this year.