The launch of Eutelsat’s latest satellite is being readied by International Launch Services from Kazakhstan. The key components of the launch rocket were sent to the Baikonur cosmodrome on July 22nd.
The launch is doubly-important. First, so that Eutelsat’s new craft E5 – West B can replace the aging Eutelsat 5 West A craft. Eutelsat 5 West A has had a long and valuable life and entered service in September 2002 (although launched in July 2002). It started out life under Eutelsat as Atlantic Bird 3 (AB3), but it was ordered by France Telcom and Europ*Star, a joint-venture between France Telecom and Europe*Star and called ‘Stellat’, but France Telecom quit satellite operations and sold the satellite to Eutelsat (for €183.9 million).
But the second aspect of the mission is to place into orbit a NASA satellite, MEV-1, or Mission Extension Vehicle, built for Space Logistics by Northrop Grumman from their facility in Dulles, near Washington DC.
The MEV-1 spacecraft will be riding as the lower passenger during this launch by a Proton rocket. This spacecraft will be testing life extension services for satellites in orbit. Orbital ATK is manufacturing and testing what is the first Commercial Servicing Vehicle (CSV). After successfully completing a series of in-orbit tests, the MEV-1 will begin its mission extension service in 2019/2020.
The mission for MEV-1 “rescue” tug is for it to deliberately link with a Intelsat craft, according to NASA. Other missions could follow and will test the MEV concept.