A second Northrop Grumman Mission Extension Vehicle was launched aboard an Ariane 5 rocket over the weekend. MEV-2 is expected to extend the lift of the Intelsat 10-02 communications satellite by at least five years.
The Ariane 5 rocket carrying the second Mission Extension Vehicle (MEV-2) was launched from the Guiana Space Center in French Guiana at 22:04 UTC on August 15. Following a successful launch, the spacecraft and two other payloads were deployed into orbit safely.
With its deployment complete, the MEV-2 spacecraft will now rendezvous with the Intelsat 10-02 satellite. Once there, it will dock with the 16-year-old satellite and extend its mission by 5 years. Although not the first MEV docking, it will nonetheless be unique.
MEV-1 was launched on October 9, 2019. Ahead of the launch, that target satellite, Intelsat 901 was taken out of operational use and moved to a graveyard orbit. MEV-1 then rendezvoused with the satellite in its new orbit and docked successfully on February 25, 2020. Under the power MEV-1, Intelsat 901 resumed communications services less than two months later.
Following a successful maiden mission, Northrop Grumman will now look to complete the docking process in the target satellite’s operational orbit. This will ensure minimal, if any, downtime in the satellite’s operations.
MEV-2 is expected to rendezvous and dock with Intelsat 10-02 in “early 2021.” Once docked, it will take over manoeuvring duties for the satellite extending its life by 5 years. This, however, is only a fraction of the spacecraft’s ability.
Once it has completed its 5-year mission extension, MEV-2 will undock and rendezvous with another satellite to continue its mission. According to Northrop Grumman, each MEV spacecraft is designed to provide up to 15 years of mission extension services.