The first spacecraft that can service satellites to extend their life launched today – TechCrunch

Up till now, industrial satellites have basically been disposable. Even the large, multi-ton ones that can have service lives spanning a decade or extra finally simply change into a lot house trash as soon as they’re out of gas, or they expertise some variety fo terminal mechanical failure. A new spacecraft constructed by Northrop Grumman and launched aboard a Russian Soyuz today (through Space.com) may change all that, nonetheless.

The MEV-1, as its recognized, is a satellite tv for pc service spacecraft, which has the precise mission of assembly up with Intelsat 901 in orbit and lending it use of its orientation thrusters to put it again into a super goal orbit – thus extending the helpful life of the 18-year previous satellite tv for pc by as many as 5 years. Once it has succeeded in placing Intelsat 901 again on observe, it’s very attainable the MEV-1 may do the identical factor for yet one more orbital satellite tv for pc operating low by itself propellant provide.

In truth, Northrop Grumman says that the spacecraft is itself designed for a 15-year helpful life, and can dock and undock a number of occasions, offering “well in excess of” 15-years of mission extension to geosynchronous satellites round 4,400 lbs in dimension whereas docked with stated satellite tv for pc.

That ought to mark a brand new period for industrial satellite tv for pc operation, main to additional decreased working prices, and subsequently extra entry for startup and smaller corporations to participate. Northrop’s MEV-1 is mainly an area tug, however even that can as a lot as double the life of some geosynchronous satellites – which suggests much more potential income for not an excessive amount of extra price, if the MEV-1 serves a number of prospects who share the price of its improvement and launch. Think of it as satellite tv for pc servicing-as-a-service, or a SsaaS mannequin for house tech corporations.

Other satellite tv for pc servicing tasks are within the works, and may benefit corporations like Orbit Fab, the so-called ‘gas stations in space’ startup that was a finalist in our Battlefield competitors at TC Disrupt final week. Orbit Fab is engaged on a easy refuelling system for satellites to use in house, so that the servicing craft wouldn’t want to really dock and propel the satellite tv for pc it’s working with, simply join and switch some gas. Other potential enterprise alternatives could lead on from in-space industrial orbital spacecraft servicing, together with upgrading satellites with new modules and sensors from totally different prospects to maximize the return on the funding of their authentic design, construct and launch.

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