Place automobiles, after introduced, normally don’t get introduced into the shop for servicing. The just one exception to this rule has been the Hubble Place Telescope, and even then, we have been only ready to mend and restore that distinct piece of devices since of the varieties of failures it suffered. Now, a satellite has effectively introduced a different satellite back again on the net without having human intervention. Extensive-time period, improvements like this could significantly prolong the lifespan of satellites.
The Northrop-Grumman satellite MEV-1 (Mission Extension Motor vehicle) has docked with Intelsat 901 and is now serving as the satellite’s motor. The Intelsat 901 was introduced in 2001 and offered assistance until eventually it ran reduced on gasoline. The satellite was moved to a graveyard orbit in December 2019, for a future rendevous with the MEV-1.
The Mission Extension Motor vehicle is an automatic traveling gasoline tank that can grasp a different close by satellite and pull it in for servicing. The MEV-1 does not essentially transfer gasoline to the satellite. In its place, it makes use of its own thrusters and gasoline source to go the satellite back again into its right orbit, enabling it to re-enter assistance. Vehicles that would refuel spacecraft by directly connecting to their gasoline lines have also been thought of, but enabling the MEV-1 to bodily hook up with the target and use its own thrust proved less complicated to engineer than the fragile process of a physical connection and in-flight gasoline transfer.
Whilst the MEV-1 makes use of its own gasoline and thrusters for these maneuvers, just one MEV is capable of servicing many satellites. The deal in between Northrop-Grumman and Intelsat phone calls for Intelsat 901 to return to assistance for 5 many years, right after which it will be moved back again to a graveyard orbit. At that point, MEV-1 will detach and go on to other prospects.
This is the first time we have at any time re-orbited a satellite in this trend, so it is not crystal clear how lots of automobiles a craft like MEV-1 can deliver back again to lifestyle, or how this would improve the way we use satellites. It appears likely, having said that, that the end end result will be much less launches, for a longer time satellite lifetimes, and much less space junk cluttering our orbits. If it is less expensive to start just one satellite + a gasoline tanker than it is to build and start two satellites, the very long-time period end result will be an improvement on many fronts.
If satellites can be built to be fixed or augmented submit-start, a new array of selections could grow to be available. Could satellites be upgraded in excess of time? Could we increase satellite imaging by integrating an upgraded CPU or AI processor, sent many years right after the authentic start through CubeSat “expansion sat?”
These kinds of ideas audio type of nuts at the minute. But at any time because Sputnik shown the wonderful abilities of a seashore ball with antenna sticking out of it, we have handled satellites as a just one-shot source, with no likelihood of expansion or improvement right after start. Now that it is possible to refuel them, we’ll certainly see firms experimenting with other upgrades.
Feature image offered by Northrop-Grumman
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