Mission Extension Vehicle-1 (MEV-1) closes in on the Intelsat 901 (IS-901) spacecraft.
Credit: Northrop Grumman

The first docking of the Mission Extension Vehicle-1 (MEV-1) to the Intelsat 901 (IS-901) spacecraft in order to provide life-extension services has been accomplished.

The February 25 event marks the first time two commercial satellites have docked in orbit and the first time that mission extension services will be offered to a satellite in geosynchronous orbit.

MEV-1 was launched Oct. 9, 2019 to dock with the Intelsat 901 satellite, a fully operational communication satellite that is running low on fuel.

The first time two commercial satellites have docked in orbit.
Credit: Northrop Grumman


What now?

The combined spacecraft stack will now perform on-orbit checkouts before MEV-1 begins relocating the combined vehicle to return IS-901 into service in late March.

MEV-1 will provide five years of life extension services to the IS-901 satellite before returning the spacecraft to a final decommissioning orbit. MEV-1 will then move on to provide mission extension services to a new client spacecraft.

Ground testing of docking technique.
Credit: Northrop Grumman/Space Logistics Services



Mechanical docking system

MEV-1 was designed and built at the Northrop Grumman’s Dulles, Virginia, facility and utilizes a low-risk mechanical docking system that attaches to existing features on the client satellite.

According to a Northrop Grumman statement, once docked, MEV takes over the attitude and orbit maintenance of the combined vehicle stack to meet the pointing and station keeping requirements of the customer.

MEV is designed for multiple docking and undockings and can deliver over 15 years of life extension services. The company is scheduled to launch its second Mission Extension Vehicle, MEV-2, later this year, which is contracted to provide service to a different Intelsat satellite.

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