Telenor Satellite, in partnership with Intelsat, says it has launched a new era for satellite communications by becoming the first commercial satellite operator to perform in-orbit servicing of an active satellite in geosynchronous orbit.
Space Logistics (a subsidiary of Northrop Grumman) was contracted to deploy its Mission Extension Vehicle MEV-2 to prolong the operational life of THOR 10-02/ Intelsat 10-02 for up to five years.
The successful launch of MEV-2 from Kourou, French Guiana on 15 August started the countdown to its arrival in geostationary orbit. It was launched on board an Ariane 5 rocket and is scheduled to dock with THOR 10-02/ Intelsat 10-02 in early 2021. The docking procedure will occur while the satellite remains fully operational, ensuring minimal disruption to service.
THOR 10-02/ Intelsat 10-02 was launched in 2004 and is said to be still in excellent health. It carries thousands of valuable communication links, including broadcasting, maritime connectivity and land-based services, making crucial communications possible in inaccessible and remote locations. Without intervention, the life-limiting factor for the satellite would have been the amount of on-board propellant which is scheduled to run out towards the end of 2021.
Ensuring continuity of service for customers is of primary importance to Telenor Satellite, the company says, and this will be achieved through a safe rendezvous and docking operation. To be certain that this manoeuvre can be successfully accomplished, the MEV service was successfully validated on a precursor mission (MEV-1), which returned Intelsat’s IS-901 from outside of the geosynchronous orbit back into service in March 2020.
As part of the life extension procedure, the MEV-2 satellite will be docked onto the communications satellite while in full operation, effectively providing the space equivalent of a jetpack and so extending the life of THOR 10-02/ Intelsat 10-02. When properly docked, the MEV-2 satellite will take over control of both the orbit and pointing of THOR 10-02/ Intelsat 10-02.
Morten Tengs, CEO of Telenor Satellite, said: “We have great confidence in the MEV-2 mission and look forward to the continued service of THOR 10-02 for the benefit of our customers across Europe and the Middle East. By employing this ground-breaking advancement to replenish the longevity of a high-quality satellite in excellent health, we are able to ensure a hassle-free continued operation for our customers.”