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Satellite operator SES says it has started discussions with two specialist satellite builders to come up with a ‘space tug’ mission extension vehicle.
Sources say the two companies are Orbital, for its ATK Vivisat vehicle, and MDA Corp of Canada, better known as the builders of the ‘Canadarm’ that was used in many Space Shuttle missions.
The two businesses take different views as to how to solve the challenge of supplying fuel to an aging satellite. ATK Vivisat, for example, use a small satellite that attaches itself to the target satellite.
MDA has a ‘roving’ in orbit tanker that visits the satellite, refuels it, and then departs to visit other clients.
SES, in the past, has suggested that it could build the necessary docking mechanism onto one of its satellites now being built and one candidate is SES-16.
SES, in its Annual Report, states: “New satellites will include the proper receiving hardware and will deliver modules that connect to the hardware of the satellite in orbit when needed. New satellites that are launched will act as delivery systems, disposing of the old module and installing a new module before beginning their own mission. This connector technique alrea