Model: Spacecraft repositions useful satellites in orbit

Updated: 2018-11-09

A spacecraft that can prolong the usefulness of dying satellites still in orbit is being displayed as a model for the first time in Hall 7 at the Nov 6-11 China International Aviation & Aerospace Exhibition.

The orbital life extension vehicle is being developed by the Eighth Academy of China Aerospace Science & Technology Corp (CASC). It is designed to move a de-orbiting satellite back to its original trajectory, repair, and/or refuel it before moving on to the next one.

The vehicles can be customized to help weather forecast, television relay, mobile telecommunication, and global navigation satellites, regain geostationary orbits and prolong service lives.

With lightweight design, they will piggyback commercial satellites into the orbit to save on costs. Their two mechanical arms will grab satellites using their own momentum. 


Orbital life extension vehicle model [Photo by Zhang Zhou / Zhuhai Daily]

The company, which has made breakthroughs in core technologies, will provide a full-stack service from design and R&D to launch and orbit maintenance.

Previously, these costly and valuable geostationary satellites werewill be "junked" once their propellant ranuns out andthey deviated from course due to lunar and solar attraction. It is considered a huge waste of resources, as the satellites remain functional.

For each additional year of service, the satellites will be able to generate turnover of dozens of millions of yuan.

CASC had announced in August that R&D would take about two years to complete. The chief designer, Hu Di, told China Daily at the time that there are some 150 communications satellites in geostationary orbits that could have their lives extended by more than 10 years.

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