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Intelsat 901 Satellite Returns to Service Using Northrop Grumman’s MEV-1; Mike DeMarco, Tom Wilson Quoted

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Intelsat has announced that Intelsat 901 has returned to service after the successful docking with the first Mission Extension Vehicle (MEV-1) from Northrop Grumman and the company’s subsidiary, SpaceLogistics, Intelsat announced on Friday.

“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.

Intelsat 901 docked on Feb. 25, 2020, marking the first time that two commercial spacecraft docked in geostationary orbit. Since February, 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 approximately 30 of its commercial and government customers to the satellite on April 2, 2020. IS-901 has been operating at the 332.5°E orbital slot and providing full service to Intelsat customers.

Intelsat has labeled life-extension services 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.

“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,” said Tom Wilson, vice president, Northrop Grumman Space Systems and president, SpaceLogistics, LLC.

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 enable the company to provide additional mission extension services for new clients including orbit raising, inclination corrections and inspections. Intelsat has also contracted Northrop Grumman for a second MEV (MEV-2) to service Intelsat 1002 satellite to occur in late 2020.

“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,” added Wilson.

Following Northop Grumman’s services with Intelsat, Joe Anderson, vice president of operations and business development at SpaceLogistics, said that the Mission Extension Vehicle 1 spacecraft will return Intelsat 901 to its working orbit after integrating with the satellite in another out-of-way orbit.

Anderson also noted that SpaceLogistics will assess the use of MEV to repair spacecraft under the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency’s Robotic Servicing of Geosynchronous Satellites initiative. The company plans to use a DARPA-provided robotic arm to integrate mission-extension pods to satellites to support propulsion functions.

“This is a great thing that will allow us to do services beyond what the MEV does,” said Anderson. “MEV does just docked life extension.”  The second MEV mission, MEV-2, is scheduled to launch in the second quarter of 2020 and begin life-extension work for Intelsat’s 1002 satellite by the year’s end.

About Intelsat

As the foundational architects of satellite technology, Intelsat operates the world’s largest and most advanced satellite fleet and connectivity infrastructure. We apply our unparalleled expertise and global scale to connect people, businesses and communities, no matter how difficult the challenge. Intelsat is uniquely positioned to help our customers turn possibilities into reality – transformation happens when businesses, governments and communities use Intelsat’s next-generation global network and managed services to build their connected future.