Advanced Television

SES commits to ‘space tug’ mission

June 28, 2017

By Chris Forrester

SES has made satellite history by contracting for the world’s first ‘satellite life extension’ craft. MDA subsidiary Space Systems/Loral (SS/L) is the builder, and the space vehicle will very much focus on refueling of existing orbital satellites. The project should launch in 2021.

SES will be the first commercial customer to benefit from the satellite refueling service, and will be able to activate the service whenever required with minimal disruption to spacecraft operation. “The agreement also includes an option for further life extension missions,” says SES.

SES says it will operate the plan via a new venture, Space Infrastructure Services (SIS), which will commercialise sophisticated satellite servicing capabilities. “SIS has contracted SS/L to design and build the highly-capable satellite servicing spacecraft vehicle to meet the needs of the US Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA)’s Robotic Servicing of Geosynchronous Satellites (RSGS) programme, which is designed to inspect, repair, relocate and augment geosynchronous satellites and plans to include a refueling payload to extend the life of satellites that are low on propellant,” says SES.

“Satellite in-orbit servicing is of upmost importance to next-generation architectures for communications satellites. It enables satellite operators like us to have more flexibility in managing our fleet and meeting our customers’ demands,” said Martin Halliwell, CTO at SES. “After witnessing the due diligence of SSL’s and MDA’s technical expertise, we are confident that its new venture is the best partner in the refuelling mission field, and will be able to help SES get more value out of an on-orbit satellite.”

“As a pioneer in next-generation fleet capabilities, SES is clearly committed to improving the space and satellite ecosystem,” said Howard L. Lance, President/CEO at MDA. “We are very pleased to have this refueling contract with SES and are excited to provide them with more options in fleet management.”

Commercial terms were not revealed, but more information is likely to flow from the SES half-year results statement at the end of July.

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