In the artist’s rendering, an MRV approaches a commercial satellite for MEP installation.

Northrop Grumman, SpaceLogistics

CNBC’s Investing in Space newsletter offers vIn the business of space exploration and personalization, delivered straight to your inbox. CNBC’s Michael Sheetz reports and curates the latest news, investor updates and exclusive interviews on the most important companies reaching new heights. Sign up to receive future editions.

It may be time to service your satellite.

A division within Northrop Grumman has become a world leader in recent years in extending the life of valuable satellites already in orbit. Like any tune-up, it involves a mechanic, but it’s a robot and performs a delicate dance above the earth.

The company is building more on the same business model. But how big is the market for satellite servicing, really, in an era when spacecraft are built and launched more cheaply and more frequently than ever?

I spoke this week with Jean-Luc Fröiger, senior vice president of space systems at Intelsat, whose company announced an order from Northrop Grumman’s space logistics unit for its latest service technology iteration.

A quick step back: In 2020, Northrop Grumman’s robotic spacecraft MEV-1 successfully docked with an older Intelsat satellite and extended its lifespan by five years, marking an industry first. A year later, the companies took that feat a step further, docking MEV-2 with an active Intelsat satellite.

A closer look at Intelsat’s IS-10-02 satellite as MEV-2 approaches for docking in orbit.


Northrop Grumman’s latest version of this tech represents a more flexible approach: a larger model called the MRV (or Mission Robotic Vehicle) will carry three MEPs (or Mission Extension Pods), which it plans to deliver and connect to three satellites in 2026. As before, the targets are large, expensive satellites operating in distant geosynchronous orbits.

Intelsat ordered one of the MEPs, as did Australian satellite operator Optus. A third is expected to sell soon.

Artist’s rendering of the mission robotic vehicle with the mission extension pod.

Northrop Grumman, Space Logistics

Froeliger explained that the new approach represents a shift in business strategy for Intelsat from “renting” MEVs to owning them for a few years.

“In the end, it’s all a business decision that depends on the value of the MEP versus the value of the annual MEV service,” Froeliger said.

While Intelsat has “study agreements with three or four other companies” for future satellite servicing missions, Froliger noted that Northrop Grumman is the most “advanced” in this space sub-sector.

But the size of the market today largely depends on the number of geosynchronous satellites that benefit from life extension. Froeliger said that 10% of the 56 satellites in Intelsat’s fleet are candidates – making satellite service still a niche market.

“Others we will replace with brand new satellites,” Fröiger said.

  • SpaceX is nearing the first Starship orbital launch: The company announced that the tower rocket’s first flight into space is “on track for the third week of April,” with a possible launch as early as Monday. That depends on regulatory approval from the FAA, but the company could reportedly receive its initial license in the next day or so. – SpaceX / Ars Technica
  • Relativity retires Terran 1 to go ‘all in’ on Terran R development, a major shift from the company’s 3D-printing-first strategy to include more traditional manufacturing methods for building rockets. Relativity revealed a substantial update to Terran R’s design, focusing on making the first stage reusable instead of the entire rocket. – CNBC
  • SpaceX launched its 23rd mission of the year carrying Intelsat The satellite, IS-402, successfully into orbit on a Falcon 9 rocket. Its booster landed successfully for the fourth time. – Intelsat
  • The FCC debuted the Space Bureau The regulator has sought to centralize its management of satellite policies and licenses in a single office. – FCC
  • Rocket Laboratory NASA’s satellite launch has been moved to New Zealand from Virginia, to ensure its Electron rockets can send the TROPICS satellites into orbit in time to help provide data for this year’s hurricane season. – Rocket Laboratory
  • the planet Expands data products, Deploying a pair of new programs “focused on increasing accessibility and scaling solutions for users.” Expanding on its “Planetary Variables” product, the company is offering additional data feeds such as “Road and Building Detection” and “Soil Water Content”. – the planet
  • Viasat Connects the antenna to the ground of Microsoft Azure Orbital Cloud NetworkThe addition of five different locations around the world will improve “high-speed connectivity” with Microsoft’s platform. – Viasat
  • Microsoft, Ball and Loft to work on SDA’s NExT satellite program, which will fly 10 satellites with experimental payloads for the Space Development Agency. – Force Aerospace
  • Slingshot expands tracking capabilities With plans for a network of “more than 200 sensors at more than 20 sites worldwide” to track objects in low Earth orbit. – Slingshot Aerospace
  • A SpaceX senior director talks about how its Dragon spacecraft experience prepares the company for Starship: Dragon senior director of engineering Stuart Keech said the company is taking the “lessons learned and the best parts of both” from its Falcon 9 rocket and Dragon capsule to make Starship “ultimately a better and more capable vehicle.” – Supercluster
  • Canadian satellite communications startup Kepler has raised $92 million, in a round led by IA Ventures. The company has raised more than $200 million to date from investors including Costanoa Ventures, Canaan Partners, Tribe Capital and BDC Capital’s Industrial Innovation Venture Fund. – Kepler Communications
  • Euroconsult has found that 2.6 billion people are without access to broadband services, with analysis finding a “significant” opportunity for service providers to build a $74 billion market over the next decade. – Euroconsult
  • European quarterly investment in space has overtaken the US for the first timeAccording to UK-based firm Seraphim’s Q1 report. According to the firm’s findings, Q1 saw $565 million in space investment in Europe, versus $456 million in the US – Seraphim
  • Raytheon Partners with SpiderOak to Enhance Satellite Cybersecurity, a strategic one-year collaboration centered around developing “a new generation of zero-trust security systems.” – Raytheon
  • Inmarsat partners with Taiwanese chip maker MediaTek A three-year contract to develop technologies for the satellite direct-to-device market. – SpaceNews
  • K. Guru Govarappan appointed chairman of Viasat, joining the satellite operator from his previous role as CEO of Verizon Media Group, Verizon Communications’ media division. – Viasat
  • Molly Carter was hired as director of sales and marketing at COMSPOC, Space Situational Awareness Company. Carter was previously head of business development and operations strategy at Avalara Corporation. – COMSPOC
  • Space Florida has begun a search for a new president and CEO: Following the retirement of Frank DiBello, the state authority is searching “nationwide” for a new leader to manage its economic development portfolio. – SpaceFlorida
  • Nasdaq suspension Virgin class Stock trading: As the now-bankrupt rocket maker begins the auction process, Nasdaq announced it will suspend public trading of the company’s shares on April 13, with the exchange also looking to delist the stock. Virgin Orbit is seeking to conduct an expedited sale in bankruptcy court, looking to begin the bidding process in early May. – Virgin Orbit / Space News
  • Astra Receives a 6-month Nasdaq listing extension, avoiding a possible delisting, the company plans to take its stock publicly traded and spin off its business. – Astra
  • Astra issued a notice to undisclosed broker-dealers due to ‘potential illegal short selling’ in the company’s stock. An investigation with ShareIntel found “trading imbalances” that “deeply concern” the company as a “target of a market manipulation scheme.” – Astra
  • April 14: Arianespace’s Ariane 5 launches the JUICE spacecraft From French Guiana.
  • April 17-20: Space Symposium Conference In Colorado.
  • April 17: SpaceX’s Starship launches first orbital attempt From Texas, final preparations and regulatory approvals are pending.
  • April 18: SpaceX’s Falcon Heavy launches the ViaSat 3 and Astranis satellites From Florida.
  • April 19: SpaceX’s Falcon 9 launches the Starlink mission from Florida.

By admin

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *