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Intelsat buys into ‘Space Tug’ concept

Hot on the heels of a similar wish made by SES, Intelsat says it is also extremely interested in a robotic spacecraft that could be used to rescue damaged satellites in orbit.

Intelsat is talking to Orbital ATK (which is also in discussions with SES) and says it will be the debut customer of Orbital’s planned fleet of 5 such repair and service satellites. The first is scheduled for launch in 2018 and to be used in 2019, and is part of a $1 billion scheme for orbiting satellite repair craft.

Initially the satellites will operate as ‘mission extension vehicles’ and be able to extend the in-orbit life of a satellite. However, future designs call for these robotic units to be able to fix problems such as a stuck or non-deployed solar panels, and refuelling tasks.

Intelsat’s plan is to use the first Orbital satellite as a ‘jet pack’ which attaches itself to the problem satellite, in order to prove the concept. The ‘jet pack’ is then planned to detach itself and then move to another satellite.  Intelsat’s contract with Orbital runs for 5 years.

The news helped propel Intelsat’s share price up by 8.91 per cent to $2.81.

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