Aerospace company Northrop Grumman and its wholly owned subsidiary SpaceLogistics have docked the Mission Extension Vehicle-1 (MEV-1) to the Intelsat 901 (IS-901) communication satellite.

The event not only marks the first time that two commercial satellites have docked in orbit, but also the first time mission extension services will be offered to a satellite in geosynchronous orbit.

In December 2019, the IS-901 was removed from service by Intelsat. It was running low on fuel but is still fully operational.

With the successful completion of the historic first docking, the combined spacecraft stack will start on-orbit checkouts.

Following this, the MEV-1 will start relocating the combined vehicle to return the IS-901 into service next month.

Intelsat executive vice-president and chief services officer Mike DeMarco said: “Intelsat has been at the forefront of innovation and game-changing space technology for decades. Pushing the boundaries of what’s possible is in our DNA here – that’s why we didn’t hesitate to sign up to be MEV-1’s first customer.

“We’re proud to make history with SpaceLogistics and Northrop Grumman on this groundbreaking space milestone.”

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Built by Northrop Grumman, the MEV-1 leverages low-risk mechanical docking system and can provide services for 15 years. It is designed to attach to the client satellite’s existing features.

Launched on 9 October 2019, the MEV-1 will provide five years of life extension services to the IS-901.

Later this year, the second MEV-2 will launch to provide life extension services for a different Intelsat satellite.