In February, the satellite MEV-1 docked with the satellite Intelsat 901, was in orbit of burial due to the exhaustion of fuel reserves. Northrop Grumman and Intelsat announcedthat MEV-1 was successfully moved Intelsat 901 at a new point in geostationary orbit, after which it will continue to operate for another five years.
Typically, the satellites are equipped with their own engines that allow them to either maintain a stable position in orbit, or change it, if required by the mission objectives. In most cases, the satellites complete their work because of the lack of fuel for maneuvering, although the basic tools remain in working condition.
Since the creation of a new satellite and orbit, require more resources, engineers have been working on the concept of extending the life of spacecraft in space. The most obvious way to extend the life of the device that have exhausted the supply of fuel to refill fuel tanks. However, currently in orbit satellites are not adapted for the injection of new portions of fuel and this concept can only be applied to future devices. Therefore, the only really applicable method for today is a mechanical capture of the satellite, after which the second unit essentially performs the operation of engines first.
MEV-1 (Mission Extension Vehicle) works that way. It was launched in October 2019, and in February proceeded to the main phase of the mission. For this he approached Intelsat 901 and docked with it by inserting the nozzle of the engine of this device the rod retainer. After that, the management of ligament apparatus was transferred to MEV-1.
After analyzing the data about the behavior of machines, the experts started to return Intelsat 901 into operation. Initially before leaving for the burial orbit, it was located in a geostationary orbit with the coordinate of 67.5 degrees West longitude, but now the MEV-1 moved it to a new location with the coordinates of 27.5 degrees West longitude. In addition, it has reduced the orbital inclination of 1.6 degrees. April 2, Intelsat has introduced the satellite back into operation and made it available to clients.
Under the terms of the contract MEV-1 will be the companion for five years, and then took him to a burial orbit. It is assumed that after the MEV-1 will be released, he was sent to serve another machine, but the customer is not defined.
It is known that Intelsat has signed a contract for a second similar mission, which is to begin later in 2020. This time a similar unit from Northrop Grumman will move an Intelsat 1002, launched in 2004.
In addition to service satellites in space there are projects for deorbiting decommissioned spacecraft and other space debris. In 2018 and 2019, British satellite RemoveDEBRIS tested the capture of such objects on orbit using the network and harpoon. In 2023, to pass the first two stages of the Japanese programme, in which the satellite will bring to the orbit of the spent stage of the rocket.