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Intelsat 901 Satellite Returns To Service Using Northrop Grumman’s Mission Extension Vehicle

View of IS-901 satellite from Mission Extension Vehicle-1’s (MEV-1) “near hold” position during approach from approximately 20 meters with Earth in the background. Photo courtesy of Northrop Grumman.

Intelsat announced on 17 April 2020 that Intelsat 901 has returned to service following the successful docking with the first Mission Extension Vehicle (MEV-1) from Northrop Grumman Corporation and the company’s wholly-owned subsidiary, SpaceLogistics LLC, on 25 February – the first time that two commercial spacecraft docked in geostationary orbit.

Since the February rendezvous, MEV-1 has assumed navigation of the combined spacecraft stack reducing its inclination by 1.6° and relocating IS-901 to its new orbital location. Intelsat then transitioned roughly 30 of its commercial and government customers to the satellite on 2 April. The transition of service took approximately six hours. IS-901 is now operating at the 332.5°E orbital slot and providing full service to Intelsat customers.

Intelsat views life-extension services, like MEV technology, as a cost-effective and efficient way to minimize service disruptions, enhance the overall flexibility of its satellite fleet and better support the evolving needs of its customers.

“With a focus on providing the best customer experience in our industry, Intelsat is proud to have pioneered this innovative first with Northrop Grumman. We see increased demand for our connectivity services around the world, and preserving our customers’ experience using innovative technology such as MEV-1 is helping us meet that need,” said Intelsat Chief Services Officer Mike DeMarco. “I want to thank Northrop Grumman, SpaceLogistics and our valued Intelsat customers, who put their trust in us to successfully execute this historic mission. As commercial space-servicing technology progresses, Intelsat looks forward to pioneering new applications in support of our customers’ continued success.”

“Our partnership with Intelsat was critical to delivering this innovative satellite technology into operation,” said Tom Wilson, vice president, Northrop Grumman Space Systems and president, SpaceLogistics, LLC. “This historic event, highlighted by the first in-orbit rendezvous and docking of two commercial satellites and the subsequent repositioning of the two-spacecraft stack, demonstrates the business value that MEV offers to customers. Now that MEV-1 has successfully delivered on its mission to place the Intelsat 901 satellite back into operational service, we will continue to pioneer the future of on-orbit servicing through our multi-year technology roadmap leading to additional services such as inspection, assembly and repair.”

Under the terms of the contract, Northrop Grumman and SpaceLogistics will provide five years of life extension services to IS-901 before returning the spacecraft to a final decommissioned orbit. MEV-1 will then be available to provide additional mission extension services for new clients including orbit raising, inclination corrections and inspections. Intelsat has already also contracted with Northrop Grumman for a second MEV (MEV-2) to service Intelsat 1002 satellite later this year.

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