Telenor Satellite has announced the successful docking of Northrop Grumman’s MEV-2 (Mission Extension Vehicle) with the company’s THOR 10-02 satellite. This represents the start of a new era for satellite communications, paving the way for a different approach to satellite servicing and life-extension possibilities.
The THOR 10-02 satellite, jointly owned with Intelsat (Intelsat IS-10-02), was first launched in 2004 and remains in excellent health, continuing to carry thousands of vital communication links to vessels navigating across busy shipping lanes and operating in remote offshore fields, as well as delivering connectivity for broadcasting and land-based services in remote locations. The prospect of preserving the operation of these links made it an obvious choice for this pioneering technology, and the companies are the first commercial satellite operators to perform on-orbit servicing of an active satellite in geosynchronous orbit.
Space Logistics (a subsidiary of Northrop Grumman) was contracted by our partner at 1° West, Intelsat, to deploy its Mission Extension Vehicle MEV-2 to prolong the operational life of THOR 10-02/ IS-10-02 as its on-board propellant was due to run out towards the end of 2021. The countdown started on August 15, 2020, when MEV-2 was launched from Kourou, French Guiana on board an Ariane 5 rocket.
Eight months after the launch, the docking procedure took place on 12 April, making history for satellite operations.
The MEV-2 satellite docked directly onto the communications satellite, effectively providing the space equivalent of a jetpack and so extending the operational life of THOR 10-02/IS-10-02. The MEV-2 has now taken over control of both the orbit and pointing of the satellite and will continue do so until the satellite is eventually retired in approximately five years’ time.
Morten Tengs, Telenor Satellite’s CEO, said, “This is a ground-breaking project and we are pleased to be a part of its success. Delivering exceptional satellite connectivity to our clients is our primary focus, and as a result of this historic mission, we will continue to serve our maritime and offshore customers with the critical connectivity solutions they depend on.”