First Commercial Satellite Docking Accomplished


Northrop Grumman subsidiary SpaceLogistics successfully docked its first mission extension vehicle (MEV-1) with commercial communications satellite Intelsat 901 (IS-901) on Tuesday. The maneuver marks the first time two commercial satellites have docked in orbit. MEV-1 will remain docked with IS-901 for five years, using its own thrusters and fuel supply to extend the satellite’s life. Following the five-year term, it will move the satellite to a final decommissioning orbit.

“Our Mission Extension Vehicle provides an innovative, satellite life extension service,” said SpaceLogistics President Tom Wilson. “Together, Northrop Grumman, SpaceLogistics LLC and Intelsat have taken the first step in pioneering in-space logistics services for both commercial and government customers.”

After performing on-orbit checkouts and moving back into position, IS-901 is scheduled to reenter service in March. The satellite, which is running low on fuel, was removed from service in December 2019 in preparation for the docking. According to Northrop Grumman, MEV-1 is designed to provide over 15 years of life extension services and is capable of multiple dockings and undockings. A second mission extension vehicle is expected to launch later this year.

Video: Northrop Grumman
Kate O'Connor
Kate O’Connor works as AVweb's Editor-in-Chief. She is a private pilot, certificated aircraft dispatcher, and graduate of Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University.

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  1. Cool idea, assuming the original satellite has the docking apparatus built in before launch. Too bad they can’t get a device to capture older dead satellites and guide them back to reentry so we stop junking up space with stuff past its operating life.

    • Pretty sure there’s no docking apparatus involved–MEV-1 used a device that goes in through the nozzle of the apogee motor. Watch the video.