In late February, Northrop Grumman’s Mission Extension Vehicle MEV-1 autonomously docked with another satellite in geostationary orbit in space, making navigation history. It simultaneously took the next step in satellite operation by extending Intelsat 901’s lifetime beyond its original plan. The so-called “rescue satellite,” built by Northrop Grumman subsidiary Space Logistics, used a combination of traditional ranging, optical orbit determination from ground, and on-board sensors (visible, infrared, and LiDAR) for relative navigation in space to make its ultra-precise rendezvous 35,786 km above Earth.
The successful operation means a potential sea change in satellite operation: their lifetimes can be extended, and defunct satellites can be moved to safer orbit even after their fuel supplies are exhausted.
The complex series of maneuvers to bring the two satellites together began with an October 2019 launch of the MEV-1. Northrop Grumman controllers undertook a series of engine burns to raise MEV-1’s orbit from its highly elliptical geostationary transfer orbit up to a circular orbit 300 km above the geosynchronous belt. Shortly thereafter, Intelsat decommissioned its satellite 901, and it used the last of its propellant to move into the GEO graveyard orbit.
For 19 days, MEV-1 advanced upon and withdrew from Intelsat 901, calibrating its navigation sensors: optical cameras, infrared cameras and side-scanning LiDAR to orient and position itself relative to Intelsat 901.
For the final delicate and very precise maneuver, on February 25 MEV-1 autonomously flew to 20-meter distance, pausing before resuming travel to the critical 1-meter docking position. It autonomously extended a docking probe, engaging an engine nozzle aboard Intelsat 901. A nozzle, by the way, that was never designed for docking purposes.
MEV-1 then extended a group of internal grippers to anchor the two satellites together.
The satellite duo are now jointly performing stack on-orbit checkouts. Later this month, MEV-1 will relocating the two of them to a GEO spot over the central Atlantic, where Intelsat 901 will take over services for another Intelsat satellite, providing C-band service in the Americas, Europe, and Africa.
MEV-1 will then, like the Lone Ranger, bid farewell to Intelsat 901 and move on to a new mission.By Inside GNSS
Echo Ridge LLC of Sterling, Virginia has been working with the Air Force Research Laboratory Center for Rapid Innovation to develop a way to determine position from non-GPS satellite signals in different frequency bands.By Inside GNSS
Septentrio and Analog Devices now combine their technology specialties, multi-frequency multi-constellation GNSS receivers and high-quality inertial measurement units (IMUs), respectively, to deliver centimeter-accurate positioning with 3D orientation (heading, pitch and roll), for applications such as automotive advanced driver assistance systems (ADAS) and industrial automation.By Inside GNSS
To gauge the present state of mind of the GNSS and PNT community, the state of play in application development, and the state of the art in positioning, navigation and timing technology, we asked four international experts for their perspectives. Here are the questions posed to them.By Inside GNSS
The Department of Transportation (DOT) selected 11 firms to demonstrate technologies that could be used to back up the services provided by GPS should GPS signals be jammed, spoofed or unavailable.By Dee Ann Divis
Trimble and Qualcomm Technologies plan to provide sub lane-level accuracy to automotive OEMs, Tier 1 suppliers and other stakeholders considering absolute positioning as part of an autonomy solution.By Inside GNSS
The European GNSS Agency (GSA) has opened a call for proposals for implementation of Open Service Navigation Message Authentication (OS-NMA) and/or Integrity Navigation Message (I/NAV) features in close-to-market receivers and/or GNSS user terminals. The deadline for submissions is October 31, 2019.By Inside GNSS
Regulus Cyber, an Israeli firm that provides a solution for smart-sensor security, has introduced a breakthrough software-only cybersecurity solution designed to protect global navigation satellite system users (GNSS, also known as GPS) from spoofing attacks.By Inside GNSS
Rochester, NY – Orolia Defense & Security announced today that it has completed the acquisition of Talen-X, a U.S. company specializing in advanced Global Navigation Simulation System (GNSS) solutions and Interference, Detection and Mitigation (IDM) technologies.By Inside GNSS
The Institute of Navigation’s Cognizant Autonomous Systems for Safety Critical Applications (CASSCA) Conference kicked off this year’s ION GNSS+ conference today in Miami.By Stan Goff
Spirent Communications plc, a provider in global navigation satellite systems (GNSS) testing solutions, has announced the launch of its enhanced GSS9000 Series GNSS constellation simulator. Designed to provide significantly-improved capability, flexibility and performance, the GSS9000 Series has been updated to meet the ever-more-demanding test needs of high-performance satellite navigation systems.By Inside GNSS