Airbus Not Sure About the Launch of Satellite Servicer

Highlights

  • Airbus has appreciated Northrop Grumman’s satellite servicer launch
  • Airbus is not sure about the commercial market viability of launching their own satellite servicer.

Airbus Defence and Space were planning to launch a satellite servicer. This was supposed to take place just after Northrop Grumman launched MEV-1. But Airbus Defence withdrew its plans almost two years ago as it was uncertain about the commercial viability of the satellite servicer in the market.

Northrop Grumman’s MEV-1 launched its servicer, as it dropped the anchor with the communications satellite Intelsat-901, paving the path for a five-year extension.Airbus is excited to see what Northrop has achieved with MEV-1, as Airbus is still trying to figure out if satellite servicing is a viable business which it could operate and get positive results.

A satellite servicer was being prepared by Airbus which was based on the Eurostar Neo platform it is already using for some telecommunications satellites. The servicer would have used all-robotic elements and electric propulsion to grab other satellites for refueling. It was a very precise design that was technically feasible but Airbus had significant issues related to the overall business idea and the strategy as a whole. Airbus stopped working on the servicer after an initial design review.

Northrop Grumman has plans to launch second MEV in June. Intelsat is also the customer the servicer, which works on the range of     Ariane 5. Each MEV has a life span of around 15 years which can enable extension missions for more than one spacecraft. Airbus will require a substantial financial arrangement, in case it decides to resurrect its servicer program as launch pricing is a crucial factor for the satellite servicer project.