Wednesday, March 9, 2016

ViviSat Satellite-Servicing Spacecraft Comes Closer to Reality

A ViviSat mission extension vehicle approaches a satellite in an artist’s impression. Credit: Orbital ATK/ViviSat

Orbital ATK has said it hopes to announce within the next six to eight weeks its first contract for a new “in-space” service using a specialized spacecraft to dock with older satellites and keep them in orbit. ViviSat, will provide cooperative in-orbit satellite life extension and maneuvering services to geosynchronous satellite operators using its Mission Extension Vehicle (MEV). The MEV docks with customers’ existing satellites providing the propulsion and attitude control needed to extend their lives.

The ViviSat MEV is capable of docking with virtually all-geosynchronous satellites with minimal interruption to operations. It will enable satellite operators to significantly extend satellite mission life, activate new markets, drive asset value and protect their franchises. ViviSat delivers life extension services that are flexible, scalable, capital-efficient and low-risk. ViviSat’s breakthrough innovation provides satellite operators unprecedented flexibility in asset deployment, enabling game-changing advances in financial and operating flexibility, and risk mitigation.

ViviSat uses a Mission Extension Vehicle (MEV) based on the Orbital ATK Gemini bus, that safely rendezvous and docks with an orbiting satellite in the geosynchronous orbit. To do so, a suite of integrated proximity sensors is used to reliably and safely rendezvous with the client satellite. The MEV then utilizes a simple mechanical docking system that attaches to existing features on the client satellite creating a firm connection between the MEV and the client satellite. This docking system is compatible with an estimated 80% of all geosynchronous satellites on orbit today.

Once docked, the MEV will take over the attitude and orbit maintenance of the combined vehicle stack to meet the pointing and station keeping needs of the customer. When the customer no longer requires the service, the MEV will undock and move away to begin service for the next customer. The ViviSat MEV provides a 15-year design life and sufficient fuel to enable well in excess of 15 years of station kept life while docked with a typical 2000 kg geosynchronous satellite. The rendezvous, proximity and docking systems of the MEV allow for numerous dockings and undockings during the life of the MEV.

ViviSat's vision is to establish a fleet of MEV based satellite-servicing vehicles in GEO that can address most any servicing need. Orbital ATK continues to make deep investments in on-orbit servicing and is working closely with U.S. Government agencies including NASA, DARPA, and others to develop the next generation space logistics technologies. These technologies include robotics and high power solar electric propulsion to enable future services building upon our keep-it-simple approach to satellite life extension.


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