WASHINGTON — SpaceLogistics, a satellite-servicing firm owned by Northrop Grumman, announced June 20 it has three confirmed orders for its Mission Extension Pods that will fly to orbit on servicing missions in 2025.

Intelsat ordered the third and last pod available on the debut mission of the company’s new servicing spacecraft, called Mission Robotic Vehicle (MRV).

Australian communications satellite operator Optus was the first customer to sign up for the Mission Extension Pods, which are propulsion jet packs that add six years to the life of geostationary satellites. Intelsat in April said it purchased one of the pods, followed by today’s announcement that it ordered a second one. 

A robotic arm developed under a DARPA program was integrated on the MRV Robotics Module at the Naval Research Laboratory in May 2023. Credit: DARPA/NRL

The MRV has two robotic arms developed by the U.S. Naval Research Laboratory with funding from the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency. DARPA in 2020 signed an agreement with Northrop Grumman allowing the company to use the robotic payloads on the MRV in exchange for access to technology demonstrations and program data. 

The robotic arms will install the jet packs on Optus’ and Intelsat’s communications satellites in geosynchronous Earth orbit. 

The MRV is the successor to SpaceLogistics’ Mission Extension Vehicles (MEVs) that are currently docked with two Intelsat spacecraft providing life-extension services. 

Intelsat’s latest order for the MEP “completes the launch manifest for our first tranche of MEPs and underscores the demand for our services,” Rob Hauge, president of SpaceLogistics, said in a news release.

MRV launched pushed to 2025

SpaceLogistics had previously projected a 2024 launch for the MRV. The company said June 20 that both the MRV and MEPs have completed their critical design reviews and are proceeding toward a planned 2025 launch aboard a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket. 

“While this order wraps up our first launch, it’s just the beginning of the MEP product line with plans not just for commercial, but also government variants to meet their unique needs,” Hauge said.

Sandra Erwin writes about military space programs, policy, technology and the industry that supports this sector. She has covered the military, the Pentagon, Congress and the defense industry for nearly two decades as editor of NDIA’s National Defense...