Extending the life of communications satellites

Posted on 13 Feb 2018 and read 514 times
Extending the life of communications satellites London-based Effective Space (www.effective.space) aims to give ageing communications satellites a new lease of life by launching small ‘space drones’ to control them, once their fuel has run out.

The company has signed a $100 million contract to extend the life of two satellites; in 2020, it will send two of its drones (weighing less than 400kg) into orbit to attach themselves to the satellites and keep them correctly oriented
for up to five years.

Managing director Daniel Campbell said: “Many satellites are designed for 15 years of service. At the end of that period, their communications hardware is still working perfectly but the propulsion system can no longer control their position.

"We offer cost-effective station-keeping and attitude-control capabilities for several more years.”

The technology behind Effective Space originated in Israel, where its research centre is located, but the company has set up its headquarters in the UK, where development, manufacturing and satellite operations will be based.

Existing British space technology companies such as Qinetiq, Oxford Space Systems and Neptec are expected to contribute to its work.

Mr Campbell added: “To do business successfully in the space industry, you have to be based in a place that allows you good access to funding and insurance, as well as good science and technology. The UK has all that — and solid space law.”

Each drone will remain attached to its target satellite for as long as the operator wants to keep the latter active; the typical life extension is expected to be five years.

The drone will then decommission the satellite by placing it in a safe “graveyard orbit” and move on to dock with a new target.

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