Intelsat-901 satellite, with MEV-1 servicer attached, resumes service

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WASHINGTON — A 19-year-old Intelsat satellite resumed service April 2 after getting a new lease on life through Northrop Grumman’s MEV-1 satellite servicer, the companies announced Friday. 

Intelsat transferred 30 commercial and government communications customers to the Intelsat-901 satellite, which now uses the Mission Extension Vehicle-1 for propulsion. The transfer took six hours to complete, Intelsat said. 

Intelsat had transitioned customers off of Intelsat-901 in November, and began moving the satellite out of the geosynchronous arc Dec. 2 to meet with MEV-1 in a graveyard orbit a few hundred kilometers above active satellites, Jean-Luc Froeliger, Intelsat’s vice president of operations and engineering, told SpaceNews by email April 17. 

MEV-1 docked with Intelsat-901 on Feb 25, after which MEV-1 lowered both spacecraft back into the geosynchronous arc. 

Northrop Grumman will keep MEV-1 attached to the satellite for five years before boosting Intelsat-901 back into a graveyard orbit for retirement. 

In an April 2 filing with the U.S. Federal Communications Commission, Intelsat said it expects Intelsat-901 to stay in service until Feb. 28, 2025. 

Intelsat-901 covers North and South America, Africa and Europe using C-band transponders and steerable Ku-band beams. The satellite replaces Intelsat-907, a 17-year-old satellite now four years past its design life. 

Intelsat has a second contract with Northrop Grumman for a satellite servicing mission to extend the life of the Intelsat-1002 satellite later this year. The servicer, MEV-2, was scheduled to launch on a European Ariane 5 rocket in the coming months, but may experience delays because of the coronavirus pandemic. 

France has paused launch activity from Europe’s Guiana Space Center in South America in an effort to reduce the number of people who could be exposed to the coronavirus. Arianespace’s heavy lift Ariane 5 rocket launches exclusively from that spaceport, which is operated by the French space agency CNES.