Six months ago, the Northrop Grumman "Mission Extension Vehicle-1" spacecraft made a unique docking with a communications satellite that had been on the Earth's orbit for 18 years. It is the first time in the history of space that a commercial ship docked with an orbiting satellite. A successor to this satellite was launched a few days ago. The MEV-2 spacecraft on the Ariane 5 rocket is dispatched from the Guiana Space Center.
Both technical devices are specifically designed to give old satellites a new life. For that it is necessary to replace their engines and refuel. It is a special process that is called satellite maintenance.
In the middle of spring, the Intelsat 901 satellite was successfully removed from the "cemetery orbit" located thousands of kilometers from the Earth. It managed to return back to geostationary orbit, officially allowing it to work again.
A cemetery orbit - that is how the astronomers conventionally call a certain space territory, where the satellites remain after they are "retired". At the same time, they keep stably relative to the surface of the Earth. MEV-2 will do something very similar.
According to Joe Anderson, who is a vice president of Space Logistics, a subsidiary of Northrop Grumman, MEV-2 represents an exact design replica of MEV-1. But the new device has more functionality.
It will dock with a working satellite Intelsat 10-02 that is in geostationary orbit. Its task is to ensure that the orbit is maintained and to prevent the satellite from moving. Communication failure may occur during the docking.
The experts predict that if it happens, the communication disruption will take no more than twenty minutes. Further missions of the company are associated with the creation and launch of specialized vehicles that can perform various repairs of satellites and satellite systems.