In partnership with Intelsat and Northrop Grumman, Telenor Satellite becomes the first commercial satellite operator to begin on-orbit life-extension servicing of its active THOR 10-02 satellite in the GEO orbit.
Featured image: An image of THOR 10-02 / IS-10-02 taken by MEV-2’s infrared wide field of view camera at 15m away. Image courtesy Northrop Grumman.
Ground-breaking mission in the deepest of space.
Dockings between spacecraft take place on a routine basis, as part of ongoing operations at the international space station. Missions, bringing crew, supplies and fuel, occur regularly at 400 km above the surface of the Earth, where the space station orbits our planet every 93 minutes.
But on April 12, 2021 something truly pioneering took place even further out in space. In fact, almost one hundred times further, 36 000 km above the equator! Here, far above our planet, we made history as Northrop Grumman’s MEV-2 (Mission Extension Vehicle) and our THOR 10-02 satellite docked with each other for the first-ever on-orbit servicing of an active satellite.
Long live THOR 10-02!
THOR 10-02 satellite has been flying in space since 2004, providing vital communication links for broadcasting, maritime and land-based connectivity for parts of Europe and the Middle East. Although the satellite was in excellent health, it was beginning to run out of fuel. This is not unexpected, and before, this would have meant the end of life for a satellite. However, with the help of the latest revolutionary space technology, we can now make sure that our satellite lives on and serves our customers for another five years.
MEV-2 was launched in August of 2020 on board an Ariane 5 rocket from Kourou, French Guinea. Its sole mission was to fly to THOR 10-02, approach it carefully, centimetre-by-centimetre and grab hold of THOR 10-02 to extend its mission life. Simply put, it is an extraordinary achievement to approach and dock while travelling at 3 km/second at 36 000 km above the Earth!
Kudos to all our teammates at Telenor Satellite, partners in Intelsat who operate THOR 10-02 and Northrop Grumman who operate the MEV-2 for this remarkable achievement. Without this success, our THOR 10-02 would have left active service towards the end of 2021 due to running out of fuel. Instead, a new chapter was opened in the life of our satellite.
So what’s so special about the GEO orbit?
This is where we find the geosynchronous satellites used for all kinds of communication, observation and navigation missions. As we all know, the earth revolves around its axis in 24 hours. What you perhaps didn’t know is that satellites in the geosynchronous orbit travel around their orbit in exactly the same time. This means that a satellite in the GEO orbit follows the rotation of the Earth, and the satellite, therefore, appears to stay fixed with respect to Earth.
This property is enormously important, since it allows for the installation of the small, inexpensive parabolic antennas that we are so used to for receiving satellite television. Hundreds of TV-channels are available to watch with no cables, only a small antenna dish on your wall. And for our maritime clients, this means robust connectivity for their business-critical operations at sea.
Together, no mission is impossible.
We are proud to be part of this revolutionary mission, making satellite communications history together with our talented and dedicated colleagues and trusted partners.
Intelsat, co-owner and operator of IS-10-02 /THOR 10-02.
Northrop Grumman, developer and operator of the MEV-2.
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