For the first time, one particular commercial satellite has grabbed keep of a different just one in orbit around Earth, demonstrating a technological know-how that could aid minimize the proliferation of place particles around our earth by enabling the maintenance and refueling of dying spacecraft.

“This is the 1st time in heritage a docking has been carried out with a satellite that was not pre-designed with docking in head,” Joe Anderson, a vice president at SpaceLogistics, a subsidiary of Northrop Grumman, stated all through a telephone news conference on Wednesday.

The corporation constructed the robotic Mission Extension Automobile-1, or MEV-1, which was released in October on prime of a Russian Proton rocket. About the past couple of months, it has made its way to extra than 22,000 miles previously mentioned Earth’s surface, just earlier mentioned what is recognised as geosynchronous orbit. Its focus on was Intelsat 901, an 18-calendar year-outdated communications satellite that is working high-quality but jogging small on fuel.

Intelsat removed the communications satellite from service in December and elevated it to the same altitude as MEV-1 for this demonstration. Sky watchers like Jonathan McDowell, an astrophysicist at the Harvard-Smithsonian Middle for Astrophysics, mentioned that MEV-1 approached inside a handful of miles of the Intelsat satellite about a week ago.

MEV-1 docked with Intelsat 901 on Tuesday at 2:15 a.m. Eastern time, Northrop Grumman introduced. MEV-1 will remain connected, providing propulsion for the Intelsat with its electrical thrusters. Following assessments of its techniques, MEV-1 will drive the Intelsat satellite to a new operational orbit in late March or early April.

Without MEV-1, Intelsat 901 would have to have to be retired in just months. Underneath the contract, MEV-1 is to prolong the life time of Intelsat 901 by five a long time. MEV-1 will then drive it to a better orbit regarded as the graveyard, wherever it will be decommissioned and not in hazard of colliding with other satellites. Developed to very last 15 many years, MEV-1 will then undock and can be sent to assist a different satellite.

The two organizations declined to communicate about pricing, but Stephen Spengler, the chief executive of Intelsat, said, “The economics function for us.”

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