Mission Extension Pods

Really interesting announcement from Orbital ATK and SpaceLogistics:

The new system consists of two products, Mission Extension Pods (MEPs)™ and Mission Robotic Vehicles (MRVs)™, which complement the industry’s first commercial satellite servicing vehicles, Orbital ATK’s Mission Extension Vehicle (MEVs)™, by providing customers with more flexibility to extend the life and effect repairs to their valuable in-orbit satellite assets.  The MEP is an external propulsion module that attaches to and provides up to five years of orbital life extension for aging satellites which are running low on fuel, but are otherwise healthy.  While the primary application of the MRV is to transport and install MEPs or other payloads on customer satellites, it will also offer space robotic capabilities for in-orbit repairs and similar functions.

Continuing Orbital ATK’s “keep it simple” strategy, MEP installation is low risk and allows a customer to remain in full control of their satellite before, during and after the process. Both new products leverage the company’s MEV technology while adding new capabilities to its expanding fleet of in-orbit servicing vehicles. SpaceLogistics, a wholly-owned subsidiary of Orbital ATK, is now offering this innovative new system with initial launch scheduled for 2021.

Make sure to watch the video they posted, as well.

This seems like a great addition to the MEV architecture, and I wouldn’t be surprised if it grew out of customer inquiries for a stationkeeping-only service, rather than one that includes attitude control, too.

Mission Extension Pods could also handle things like end-of-life disposal into graveyard orbits—that service alone extends the useful life of a satellite quite a bit.

It’s good to see SpaceLogistics is still pushing forward even after the Northrop Grumman acquisition of Orbital ATK, and it’s good to see them working on vehicles with robotic arms, too.