First commercial docking of two satellites in orbit

WesL

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This is pretty neat stuff. Yesterday, Northrup Grumman and their wholly owned company Space Logistics, LLC successfully docked their Mission Extension Vehicle (MEV) with Intelsat's IS-901 satellite. The MEV will take over attitude and orbit maintenance of the IS-901 which was low on fuel. It is expected to give an extra 5 years of mission life to IS-901 and then the MEV will move it to a final decommissioning orbit. At that MEV-1 will move to another satellite. In all the MEV-1 can provide 15 years of service. The MEV-2 is expected to launch later this year. The photo below is from from about 80 yard away from IS-901 as the MEV-1 moved in for docking.

MEV-1, launched Oct. 9, 2019, recently completed its orbit raising to an orbit approximately 180 miles above geosynchronous orbit. IS-901 is a fully operational communication satellite that is running low on fuel. Intelsat (NYSE: I) removed 901 from service in December 2019, transferring customers to other satellites in its extensive fleet, in order to raise its orbit to the same altitude as MEV-1 in preparation for docking. MEV-1 then completed the historic docking with IS-901 on February 25 at 2:15 a.m. ET. The combined spacecraft stack will now perform on-orbit checkouts before MEV-1 begins relocating the combined vehicle to return IS-901 into service in late March.

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Photo Northrop Grumman
 

TomaJo

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I recently read a discussion about satellite maintenance. People in the space community find this financially impractical. I like this kind of news despite its ambiguity. At least this means that some work is underway in this direction. Perhaps in a few years, we will really get a new unique opportunity to extend the life of important companions. But now the equipment on satellites is designed to last.
 
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