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article imageU.K. startup to launch first satellite servicing drones in 2020

By Karen Graham     Mar 12, 2018 in Technology
London - UK-based Effective Space Solutions, a company developing spacecraft that can extend the lives of telecommunications satellites, has arranged to launch its first two spacecraft on a Russian Proton rocket in 2020.
On Monday, March 12, Effective Space announced its intent to contract with International Launch Services (ILS) to launch the two space drones into orbit using the Proton Breeze M rocket in 2020.
London, England-based Effective Space Solutions provides satellite operators with life-extension and other commercial in-orbit services, generating added revenues and assuring continuous operations, by utilizing a reliable, affordable and capable fleet of small spacecraft with a universal docking system The company was founded in December 2013.
ILS is the Reston, Virginia-based commercial arm for the Russian manufacturer of the Proton rockets. The contract between Effective Space and ILS will be signed by July 2018.
"The announcement of this launch, utilizing the performance of the Proton Breeze M vehicle, is an important milestone for a rapidly developing market, Arie Halsband, Effective Space’s founder, and CEO said in a statement. “ILS worked with us to arrive at a reliable, high performing, cost-effective solution for our business.”
Proton-M rocket ready for launch on March 14.
Proton-M rocket ready for launch on March 14.
The BBC is reporting Effective Space already has a deal to send the washing-machine-sized systems into space where they will attach to and service two geostationary satellites that are running out of fuel, basically taking on station-keeping duties. This will extend the lives of the satellites.
Satellite servicing is a new market opportunity
There has been much talk recently about the need to extend the life of existing satellites in space. This issue has created market opportunities for a number of new startups, with Effective Space Solutions joining two other companies, Orbital ATK and Maxar Technologies, in getting contracts for life extension with geostationary telecom satellites.
The Proton Breeze M is one of the few rockets capable of placing payloads directly into a geostationary ("geo") orbit 36,000 kilometers (22,369 miles) above the Earth. Normally, new spacecraft are dropped off into a "transfer" orbit and can sometimes take several months to lift themselves into their final destination. But using the Proton will put the space drones directly into geostationary orbit, saving time and money.
"This allows us to execute our contract with our first customer on time because when we launch our first drones directly into 'geo' it actually saves us six-to-eight months of orbit-raising," Arie Halsband, founder, and CEO of Effective Space, told BBC News.
ILS President Kirk Pysher said, “This combination of performance and experience will enable Effective Space to realize their mission objective in the most expedient and effective way possible.”
The two drones (inset) would go up on the same rocket.
The two drones (inset) would go up on the same rocket.
Effective Space Solutions
More about the Space Drone
According to the press release, the Space Drone spacecraft is a 400-kilogram (882 pounds) spacecraft (1m x 1m x 1.25m) that has a universal, non-intrusive docking system to rendezvous and dock to the geostationary host satellite.
The Space Drone then uses electric propulsion to take over the station-keeping and attitude-control maneuvers of the joint stack. Missions include station-keeping, relocation, deorbiting, orbit correction, inclination correction and ‘bringing into use’ (BIU).
Following the initial launch of the first two Space Drones in 2020, the company plans to launch up to six new drones annually, assisting low Earth orbit constellations, cleaning up space debris and performing other logistics services.
Space News notes that "Last year satellite operators purchased only seven spacecraft on the commercial market, a low point in a three-year trend of satellite orders averaging below the 20 or more norm."
More about space drones, effective space, geostationary satellites, servicing drones, ILS
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