In-orbit satellite maintenance equipment development

| Transport

Visualisation of Mission Robotic Vehicle and Mission Extension Pod technology

Orbital ATK is providing mission extension pods and robotic vehicles for refuelling and maintaining orbiting satellites.

Orbital ATK has revealed its plan for the next generation of satellite life extension and in-space servicing products. During a speech at the SATELLITE 2018 Conference and Exhibition in Washington DC, Orbital ATK President and Chief Executive Officer David Thompson and SpaceLogistics President Tom Wilson introduced a new robotic servicing system that provides additional options for customers to enhance the value of their satellites. This new space system also enables the company to expand its customer base with advanced mission capabilities in an emerging market that Orbital ATK is pioneering.

The new system consists of two products, Mission Extension Pods (MEPs) and Mission Robotic Vehicles (MRVs), which complement the industry’s first commercial satellite servicing vehicles, Orbital ATK’s Mission Extension Vehicle (MEVs), by providing customers with more flexibility to extend the life and effect repairs to their valuable in-orbit satellite assets. The MEP is an external propulsion module that attaches to and provides up to five years of orbital life extension for aging satellites which are running low on fuel, but are otherwise healthy. While the primary application of the MRV is to transport and install MEPs or other payloads on customer satellites, it will also offer space robotic capabilities for in-orbit repairs and similar functions.

Continuing Orbital ATK’s “keep it simple” strategy, MEP installation is low risk and allows a customer to remain in full control of their satellite before, during and after the process. Both new products use the company’s MEV technology while adding new capabilities to its expanding fleet of in-orbit servicing vehicles. SpaceLogistics, a wholly-owned subsidiary of Orbital ATK, is now offering this innovative new system with initial launch scheduled for 2021.

“The introduction of MEPs allows us to offer a complementary service alongside our MEVs to meet the industry’s needs by providing low-risk, low-cost station-keeping for geosynchronous satellites of all types,” said the President of SpaceLogistics. “We always aimed to expand our fleet to provide a wide variety of space logistics services, and the MEV, MEP and MRV products give our customers the option to select exactly the kind of life extension or in-space repair they may need,” he added.

As Orbital ATK introduces its newest in-orbit servicing system, the company continues to make excellent progress on the production of its first two Mission Extension Vehicles. MEV-1 is scheduled to launch in late 2018 and MEV-2 is targeted for lift-off in early 2020. Each MEV has a 15-year design life with the ability to perform numerous dockings and other services during its life span. Intelsat, one of the world’s largest commercial satellite operators, is the initial customer for the first two MEV’s.

The MEV, MEPs and MRV are part of SpaceLogistics’ long-range plan to establish a fleet of in-orbit servicing vehicles that can address diverse space logistics needs including repair, assembly and through-space transport. The company is also working with US government agencies to develop and implement new capabilities in its servicing vehicle fleet. These include next-generation repair vehicles, in-orbit assembly of large space structures and cargo delivery and logistics services to deep-space gateways in lunar orbit.

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