Northrop Grumman and Intelsat Make History with Satellite Docking of Second Mission Extension Vehicle

An image of Intelsat 10-02 taken by MEV-2’s infrared wide field of view camera at 15m away. (Credit: SpaceLogistics)

DULLES, Va., April 12, 2021 (Northrop Grumman PR) – Northrop Grumman Corporation (NYSE: NOC) and the company’s wholly-owned subsidiary, SpaceLogistics LLC, have successfully completed the docking of the Mission Extension Vehicle-2 (MEV-2) to the Intelsat 10-02 (IS-10-02) commercial communications satellite to deliver life-extension services. The docking was completed at 1:34 p.m. EST.

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ESA Invites Ideas to Open Up In-orbit Servicing Market

Clean Space has broadened the concept of an active debris removal to a multi-purpose Space Servicing Vehicle that would include debris removal as one of its aims. (Credit: ESA)

PARIS (ESA PR) — ESA is seeking to open the way to a new era of in-space activities such as refuelling, refurbishment, assembly, manufacturing, and recycling. The Agency is now soliciting ideas for In-Orbit Servicing activities from European industry and academia.

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SPACovirus Sweeps Space Sector

Richard Branson celebrates the first Virgin Galactic trade on the New York Stock Exchange. (Credit Virgin Galactic)
Wall Street’s latest easy money craze has attracted a growing number of space companies. But, just because they can go public, should they?

by Douglas Messier
Managing Editor

Seven space companies have gotten caught up in the SPACovirus sweeping through Wall Street. The impact on the space industry is going to be interesting to watch.

A SPAC is a special purpose acquisition company. It’s a publicly traded investment firm that, with outside investors, acquires or merges with another company, and then takes the acquisition public under its own name.

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NASA Partners with Altius, Honeybee & OrbitFab to Test Satellite Fixtures for Robotic Grappling

A robotic servicing arm (left) practices autonomous capture of a satellite mockup (right) in Goddard’s Robotic Operations Center. Because there is no grapple fixture, the arm will use the marman ring, which originally attached the satellite to the rocket that launched it to space. (Credits: NASA/Rebecca Roth)

by Tracy Vogel
NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center

GREENBELT, Md. — NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland, has chosen three companies to participate in a new partnership to test and evaluate satellite servicing technologies.

Altius Space Machines of Broomfield, Colorado, Honeybee Robotics of Longmont, Colorado, and Orbit Fab of San Francisco will provide cooperative robotic grapple fixtures and data to be studied by NASA’s Exploration and In-Space Services projects division (NExIS, formerly known as the Satellite Servicing Projects Division) engineers. The engineers will utilize robotics facilities at Goddard via Space Act Agreements to collect data on the performance of the companies’ fixtures.

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Orbit Fab to Launch Orbital Fuel Depot Next Year

by Douglas Messier
Managing Editor

Orbit Fab plans to launch its first operational fuel depot into orbit aboard a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket no earlier than June 2021.

Orbit Fab’s Tanker 001 Tenzing will store propellant for satellite serving spacecraft and other vehicles that need refueling. The spacecraft will be placed in a sun synchronous orbit by one of Spaceflight Inc.’s Sherpa orbital transfer vehicles.

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Maxar Awards MDA Contracts for On-orbit Servicing Technologies

OSAM-1 mission (Credit: NASA)

BRAMPTON, Ont. (MDA PR) — MDA today announced that it has signed multiple contracts with Maxar Technologies to provide advanced space robotics technologies for the Space Infrastructure Dexterous Robot (SPIDER), a technology demonstration on NASA’s On‑orbit Servicing, Assembly, and Manufacturing 1 (OSAM-1) mission.

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NASA’s Refueling Mission Completes Second Set of Robotic Tool Operations in Space

The International Space Station’s Dextre robotic arm uses the Visual Inspection Poseable Invertebrate Robot 2 (VIPIR2) tool to complete operations on Robotic Refueling Mission 3 (RRM3). (Credit: NASA)

by Vanessa Lloyd and Isabelle Yan
NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center

GREENBELT, Md. — NASA’s Robotic Refueling Mission 3 (RRM3) has successfully completed its second set of robotic tool operations on the International Space Station, demonstrating key techniques for transferring cryogenic fluids, used as coolants, propellants, or for life support systems in orbit. These technologies have applications for extending spacecraft life and facilitating exploration to the Moon and Mars.

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Astroscale Brings Total Capital Raised to U.S. $191 Million, Closing Series E Funding Round

The additional investment makes Astroscale the most funded on-orbit servicing company globally and most funded space venture in Japan.

TOKYO, October 13, 2020 (Astroscale PR) – Astroscale Holdings Inc. (“Astroscale”), the market-leader in securing long-term orbital sustainability, today announced it has closed its Series E round with additional funding of U.S. $51 million from a group of investors led by aSTART Co., Ltd. (“aSTART”). This latest round brings the total investment raised to U.S. $191 million and makes Astroscale the most funded on-orbit services and logistics company globally and most funded space venture in Japan.

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Parts Come Together This Year for DARPA’s Robotic In-Space Mechanic

Flight manipulator arm, part of the RSGS robotic payload. (Credit: Naval Research Laboratory)

ARLINGTON, Va. (DARPA PR) — Eyeing a launch in 2023, DARPA’s Robotic Servicing of Geosynchronous Satellites (RSGS) program will focus the remainder of this year on completing the elements of the robotic payload. The objective of RSGS is to create an operational dexterous robotic capability to repair satellites in geosynchronous Earth orbit (GEO), extending satellite life spans, enhancing resilience, and improving reliability for the current U.S. space infrastructure.

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Astroscale U.S. Enters the GEO Satellite Life Extension Market

DENVER, June 3, 2020 (Astroscale PR) – Astroscale U.S. Inc., the U.S. unit of Astroscale Holdings Inc., the market leader in securing long-term orbital sustainability, today announced it has entered into a definitive agreement to acquire the intellectual property and other assets and to hire certain members of the staff of Effective Space Solutions R&D Ltd. (“ESS”), an Israeli satellite life-extension and servicing company.

These moves make Astroscale the only company solely dedicated to on-orbit services across low-earth (“LEO”) and geostationary (“GEO”) orbits and bring the company closer to realizing its vision of orbital sustainability for future generations. The closing of the transaction is contingent upon receipt of certain regulatory approvals and other customary closing conditions.

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Over Budget Restore-L Mission 3.5 Years From Launch

Artist’s conception of Restore-L servicing satellite with Landsat 7. (Credit: NASA)

by Douglas Messier
Managing Editor

NASA’s $1 billion Restore-L mission to refuel the aging Landsat 7 satellite is running about $300 million over budget and almost three years behind schedule, according to a new assessment by the Government Accountability Office (GAO).

The project’s woes have included a shortage of both funding and skilled personnel as well as the addition of a new instrument with immature technology to the satellite servicing spacecraft.

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NASA to Fund Made in Space Project to Develop In-space Laser Welding System

by Douglas Messier
Managing Editor

NASA has selected Made in Space for a small business award to develop a system capable of autonomously welding structures in space.

The Mobile End-Effector Laser Device (MELD) would be capable of welding “aerospace-grade metals to assemble large, stable structures on-orbit or on the lunar or Martian surface. These include trusses, arrays, habitats, and pressure vessels,” according to the proposal summary.

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Mission Extension Vehicle: Breathing Life Back Into In-Orbit Satellites

The Intelsat 901 satellite was successfully returned to service on April 2 using the Mission Extension Vehicle-1 (MEV-1). (Credit: Northrop Grumman)

FALLS Church, Va. (Northrop Grumman PR) — A satellite may be healthy and fully operational, but it can still be retired if its fuel supply has depleted. Once fuel runs dry, that’s it: The satellite is done, unusable. Enter the Mission Extension Vehicle (MEV).

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Intelsat Satellite Returns to Service After Docking with 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. The MEV successfully docked with the Intelsat 901 satellite on Tuesday, Feb. 25. (Credit: Northrop Grumman)

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

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Orbit Fab Wins SBIR Award for Satellite Refueling System

Orbit Fab has received a Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) Phase I award worth $222,713 to help fund the development of a refueling system for smaller satellites.

The National Science Foundation’s (NSF) America’s Seed Fund awarded the $222,713 grant to the company, which is based in Cupertino, Calif. Daniel Faber is the principal investigator.

“The proposed project will remove the complexity of performing spacecraft proximity operations and docking in order to facilitate commercial refueling through a ‘bolt on’ standardized component with the associated sensors and functions,” according to the proposal abstract.

“The system will be installed during production on the ground. This integrated package of sensors, communications, fueling valves, and docking latches will provide the functionality required for a servicing vehicle and a client satellite to safely approach, securely dock, and exchange fuel between the two vehicles,” the abstract added.

Orbit Fab will use the NSF funding to refine the concept, determine the optimal optical alignment for operations and docking, and identify the suite of sensors required.