Satellite Technology Feature Article
ViviSat Building Mission Extension Vehicles to Service Ailing Satellites in Orbit
By David Gitonga, TMCnet Contributing Writer
In what might just be the first satellite refurbishment service, ViviSat is in the process of building a fleet of specially built spacecrafts that will act as repair droids as well as orbital gas stations for ailing satellites orbiting the Earth.
These spacecrafts will thus be the ultimate space handymen to help in refueling and repairing these satellites.
This initiative is in no way going to make ViviSat the only company offering these services. Other companies like MacDonald, Dettwiler and Associates Ltd. (MDA (News - Alert)) are also building their own spacecrafts that will be used to refuel and repair aging satellites in orbit.
SPACE.com has showcased these space infrastructure servicing satellites depicting how they’re intended to work. One video shows one of the new servicing satellites performing a rendezvous and docking with another satellite to refuel and maintain it in orbit around the Earth.
Speaking at the 2012 Satellite and Content Delivery Conference and Expo, chief operating officer at ViviSat, Bryan McGuirk, called these new spacecrafts ‘Mission Extension Vehicles’ (MEV), and said they are supposed to “dock with commercial satellites and extend their lives.” ViviSat plans to expand the fleet to at least 10 crafts and has contracted ATK (News - Alert), the same company that made NASA’s retired space shuttle rocket motors, to build its fleet of spacecrafts.
According to McGuirk, “There is a demand for new solutions that can deal with the majority of satellites that can go to end of life with all their subsystems working. It is in essence a wasted opportunity for those operators to have to send them to deep space.”
ViviSat’s MEVs are expected to extend the lives of these satellites by up to 10 years.
Currently, Earth-orbiting spacecrafts are de-orbited, sent to a graveyard-like parking orbit or left as space junk when they are no longer functional. Although not part of its current business model, ViviSat is also considering cleaning up orbital debris if hired by satellite operators. Looks like there’s money in junk after all.
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Edited by Braden Becker