Press Release

Orbital Recovery Corporation Begins Development of Space “Tug” To Prolong the Lifetime of Operational Telecommunications Satellites

By SpaceRef Editor
September 2, 2002
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Paris, France; Washington, D.C.; Los Angeles, CA, September 2, 2002 – A unique new spacecraft system that will extend the useful life of multi-million dollar telecommunications satellites by 10 years or more is in development for a first flight in 2004.

The Geosynch Spacecraft Life Extension System (SLES) is a novel concept that will significantly prolong the operating lifetimes of valuable telecommunications satellites- which today are junked when their on-board fuel supply runs out.

Definition work on the SLES has been completed by Orbital Recovery Corporation, which is now creating its industrial team by seeking competitive bids for spacecraft hardware and systems from international suppliers.

Orbital Recovery Corporation is unveiling the SLES this week at the World Summit for Satellite Financing in Paris, France, where the concept is being presented to telecommunications operators, satellite manufacturers, insurers and space industry contractors.

The SLES will operate as an orbital “tugboat,” supplying the propulsion, navigation and guidance to keep a telecom satellite in its proper orbital slot for many years. Another application is the rescue of spacecraft that have been placed in a wrong orbit by their launch vehicles, or which have become stranded in an incorrect orbital location during positioning maneuvers.

Telecommunications satellites typically cost $250 million – and they are designed for an average useful on-orbit life of 10-15 years. Once their on-board propellant load is depleted, the satellites are boosted into a disposal orbit and decommissioned even though their revenue-generating communications relay payloads continue to function.

“Today, there is no viable way to prolong the useful life of these very expensive and capable telecom satellites, resulting in the wasteful loss of valuable assets every year,” said Walt Anderson, a telecommunications industry entrepreneur and Orbital Recovery Corporation’s chief executive officer. “With the SLES, we have an effective solution that works with any satellite, and which requires no special interface for the on-orbit rendezvous and docking.”

The SLES is designed to easily mate with all telecommunications satellites now in space or on the drawing boards. After launch, the SLES will rendezvous with the telecommunications satellite, approaching it from below for docking. The linkup will use a proprietary docking device that connects to the telecom satellite’s apogee kick motor.

Control of the SLES will be handled by Orbital Recovery Corporation following its launch and during the initial free-flight phase. Docking and checkout of the SLES with its telecommunications satellite target will be a joint effort of Orbital Recovery Corporation and the telecom satellite operator. Once the docking and checkout has been completed, long-term control will be handed over to the satellite operator – with technical support and service by Orbital Recovery Corporation throughout the operating lifetime.

Orbital Recovery Corporation has identified more than 40 telecommunications satellites currently in orbit that are candidates for life extension using the SLES.

The company is targeting the first SLES mission for 2004, with two more deployments the following year and three annually after 2005.

Flight proven, off-the-shelf hardware will be used in production of the SLES spacecraft to keep costs down and ensure high reliability. The SLES will be built around a main bus that contains the spacecraft control/management systems and the primary ion propulsion system.

Ion thruster packs on deployable booms will provide attitude control for the SLES and the telecommunications satellite to which it is mated. These booms are extended to provide sufficient thruster impulse for control of the SLES/telecom satellite combination. Large deployable solar panels provide power for the SLES’ on-board systems, as well as for the ion propulsion system.

The SLES is sized for launch as a secondary payload on a large commercial vehicle such as Europe’s Ariane 5, or as a primary payload on an inexpensive launcher as the Russian Dnepr.

For more information, see the Orbital Recovery Corporation’s Web site:

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Press & media contact:

Jeffrey Lenorovitz

The InfoWEST Group

Media relations agency for Orbital Recovery Corporation

Tel: +1 703 560-6330

U.S. mobile: +1 703 615-3646

International GSM: +33 (0)6 80 85 86 25


SpaceRef staff editor.