Wednesday, October 5, 2022

Northrop Grumman to launch new on-orbit satellite servicing mission

Northrop Grumman announced a launch agreement with SpaceX and Australian telecommunications company Optus for its Mission Robotic Vehicle (MRV) spacecraft and the sale of its first Mission Extension Pod (MEP).

Under the launch agreement, SpaceX will provide launch services for a planned spring 2024 launch of the MRV and several MEPs. Optus, Australia’s largest satellite owner and operator, recently completed a purchase agreement with SpaceLogistics for the installation of one of the MEPs on its D3 satellite in 2025.

Based on Northrop Grumman’s Mission Extension Vehicle-1 (MEV-1), the MRV will perform a series of in-orbit tests of its robotic-arm payload as it carries out its primary mission, installing MEPs on commercial satellites. The MEP is a small customer-owned, customer-controlled propulsion augmentation device. It can provide six years of life extension for a typical 2,000 kg satellite in GEO. The sophisticated robotics of the next-generation MRV will expand the services SpaceLogistics currently offers to include augmentation, detailed robotic inspection, relocation, and repair.

The SpaceLogistics Mission Robotic Vehicle uses its sophisticated robotics to attach Mission Extension Pods, providing propulsion augmentation and extending the service lives of commercial satellites running out of fuel.
The SpaceLogistics Mission Robotic Vehicle uses its sophisticated robotics to attach Mission Extension Pods, providing propulsion augmentation and extending the service lives of commercial satellites running out of fuel. Credit: Northrop Grumman

The MRV and MEP completed their respective preliminary design reviews in fall 2021 and remain on schedule for critical design reviews in 2022 and launch in 2024. According to Northrop Grumman, the launch will mark the first time a robotic-capable spacecraft will ascend into space to provide persistent robotic servicing capabilities in geostationary orbit (GEO).

“Our contracts with SpaceX and Optus are tangible evidence of our momentum and commitment to deliver second-generation on-orbit servicing technologies to the satellite industry,” said Vice President of Business Development for SpaceLogistics Joseph Anderson. “We are thrilled to have Optus as our premier MEP customer as we continue pioneering the future of space and expanding the realm of what is possible with on-orbit servicing and sustainment.”

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