Mission Extension Vehicle

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The Mission Extension Vehicle (MEV)[1] is a spacecraft concept proposed by ViviSat, a 50/50 joint venture of aerospace firms U.S. Space and ATK, to operate as a small-scale in-space satellite-refueling spacecraft.[2]


ViviSat proposed the Mission Extension Vehicle (MEV) concept in 2011.[1] At that time, the project was planned to be a 50/50 joint venture of aerospace firms U.S. Space and ATK, to operate as a small-scale in-space satellite-refueling spacecraft.[2]

By March 2012, ViviSat was finalizing its design and was "ready to build" the servicing spacecraft,[3] but had announced no customers for the Mission Extension Vehicle services.[3]

In April 2014, ATK announced that it would merge its Aerospace and Defense Groups with Orbital Sciences Corporation.[4]

In December 2017, the US telecommunications regulator approved a plan submitted by OrbitalATK to use an MEV to service an Intelsat satellite, Intelsat 901, that was originally launched to geostationary orbit in June 2001 for a planned in-service life of 13 years. That satellite has already been replaced in orbit. The first MEV, MEV-1, is planned to launch with Eutelsat's 5WB commsat, no earlier than 2019.[5]

Technical capabilities and competition[edit]

ViviSat was to compete for space servicing business with the 2011 announcement of the Space Infrastructure Servicing (SIS) vehicle from MDA. However, the two vehicles intended to operate with different technology approaches. ViviSat would connect to the target satellite in the same way as MDA SIS, but not transfer fuel. It would rather use "its own thrusters to supply attitude control for the target."[2]

In a June 2012 article in The Space Review, a number of approaches to satellite servicing were discussed. ViviSat's Mission Extension Vehicle was reported to operate at the "less complex" end of the technology spectrum,[3] which could offer higher reliability and reduced risk to satellite owners.

ViviSat believed their approach was simpler and could operate at lower cost than MDA, while having the technical ability to dock with "90% of the 450 or so geostationary satellites in orbit,"[2] whereas MDA SIS can dock to only 75%.[6]

"In addition to extending the life of an out-of-fuel satellite, the company could also rescue fueled spacecraft like AEHF-1 by docking with it in its low orbit, using its own motor and fuel to place it in the right orbit, and then moving to another target."[2]

As of 2012, ViviSat planned to use the ATK A700 satellite bus.[7]

Legal implications[edit]

See also[edit]

  • ConeXpress — an ESA concept vehicle to perform the same mission
  • Orbital Express — a 2007 U.S. government-sponsored mission to test in-space satellite servicing technologies with two vehicles designed from the start for on-orbit refueling and subsystem replacement.
  • Propellant depot


  1. ^ a b "ViviSat Corporate Overview". company website. ViviSat. 2009. Retrieved 2011-08-26. 
  2. ^ a b c d e Morring, Frank, Jr. (2011-03-22). "An End To Space Trash?". Aviation Week. Retrieved 2011-03-21. ViviSat, a new 50-50 joint venture of U.S. Space and ATK, is marketing a satellite-refueling spacecraft that connects to a target spacecraft using the same probe-in-the-kick-motor approach as MDA, but does not transfer its fuel. Instead, the vehicle becomes a new fuel tank, using its own thrusters to supply attitude control for the target. ... [the ViviSat] concept is not as far along as MDA. 
  3. ^ a b c Foust, Jeff (2012-06-25). "The space industry grapples with satellite servicing". Space Review. Retrieved 2012-07-04. 
  4. ^ "ATK Press Release". ATK Announces Plan to Create Two Independent, Publicly Traded Companies Committed to Leadership in Outdoor Sports and Aerospace and Defense. 29 April 2014. Archived from the original on 20 February 2015. Retrieved 20 February 2015. 
  5. ^ https://advanced-television.com/2017/12/18/satellite-space-tug-gets-approval/
  6. ^ de Selding, Peter B. (2011-03-18). "Intelsat Signs Up for MDA's Satellite Refueling Service". Space News. Archived from the original on 2012-03-21. Retrieved 2011-03-20. more than 40 different types of fueling systems ... SIS will be carrying enough tools to open 75 percent of the fueling systems aboard satellites now in geostationary orbit. ... the SIS spacecraft is designed to operate for seven years in orbit but that it is likely to be able to operate far longer than that. Key to the business model is MDA’s ability to launch replacement fuel canisters that would be grappled by SIS and used to refuel dozens of satellites over a period of years. These canisters would be much lighter than the SIS vehicle and thus much less expensive to launch.  
  7. ^ "ATK: Introducing the expanded product line of agile spacecraft buses". Space News. 2012-08-13. pp. 16–17. ATK A100 THEMIS; ATK A200 ORS-1, TacSat3, and EO-1; ATK A500 DARPA Phoenix; ATK A700 ViviSat 

External links[edit]