We have covered satellite technology and its potential in-depth quite recently, especially with the technology picking up pace as a solution to beam down internet connectivity to areas which would otherwise be difficult to service otherwise. Now Intelsat has come up with a solution to extend the life span of the objects we have orbiting Earth.
The Mission Extension Vehicle (MEV-1) as it is being called successfully launched recently, and Intelsat is excited about the longevity it could provide for satellites currently in orbit.
“Intelsat has been exploring in-orbit servicing for several years because we believe the technology will be a valuable tool for us and the customers we serve. MEV-1 has the potential to extend the life of deployed satellites where the existing technology is still viable for the applications it serves,” says Jean-Luc Froeliger, VP of space systems engineering & operations at the firm.
“Because it avoids the need to deploy new satellites, MEV-1 will enable Intelsat to redeploy capital into other areas of our business and optimize our capital expenditures for future innovation,” he explains.
Perhaps the most important element that the MEV-1 delivers is an increased operability for satellites, with it increasing the lifespan by as much as a quarter in some cases.
“By virtue of the MEV-1’s ability to extend the life of a satellite by 5 years, or an estimated 25 percent of its life, it will also help mitigate the increasing congestion in space,” notes Froeliger.
With this being the first phase in the ambitious project, now Intelsat’s goal is to sync up with the MEV-1’s manufacturer Northrop Grumman, with the latter now handling the most crucial part of the mission – rendezvous and docking.
“As this is the first mission of its kind, out of an abundance of caution, we are operating these maneuvers above the normal orbital slot. This will ensure there is no disruption to any neighboring satellites,” adds the VP.
The final rendezvous is scheduled to happen three and a half months after this successful launch, so it should be interesting to see how the project develops in the coming weeks, as well as how it improves the longevity of the satellite moving forward.
“Pioneering the first Mission Extension Vehicle is very much in line with Intelsat’s philosophy and culture of driving innovation,” says Froeliger.
“2019 marks a transformational year for our industry, where we begin to see manufacturing orders entered for software-defined satellites, alternative space-based platforms emerge, and advancements in antenna and ground technology continue to push the envelope,” he concludes.