Orbital Recovery Corporation Offers Space Rescue for Stranded Astra 1K Telecommunications Satellite

By SpaceRef Editor
December 5, 2002
Filed under ,

Washington, D.C., Luxembourg, December 5, 2002– Orbital Recovery Corporation has proposed an ambitious rescue plan for ASTRA 1K — one of the world’s largest telecommunications satellites, which was stranded in low Earth orbit last week after its launch vehicle malfunctioned.

The salvage mission would use Orbital Recovery Corp.’s new “space tug” — called the Geosynch Spacecraft Life Extension System (SLES™) — to boost ASTRA 1K from its current 290-km. circular orbit to the desired 35,000-km. operational altitude for telecom satellites.

Orbital Recovery Corp. has been in significant discussions with the stakeholders concerned with the future of the ASTRA 1K spacecraft, who have indicated a significant interest in the company’s proposed solution to recover this massive satellite for normal operation.

The SLES would be launched in approximately 20 months for a rendezvous and docking with ASTRA 1K.  Once firmly attached to the stranded telecommunications satellite, the space tug will use its own propulsion system to raise ASTRA 1K’s altitude and reduce its inclination to the Clarke Belt orbital plane — allowing the spacecraft to function for up to its original 13-year expected mission lifetime in geostationary orbit.

“Our SLES is perfectly tailored for the rescue of ASTRA 1K, which is an extremely expensive asset that unfortunately is useless in its wrong orbit,” said Orbital Recovery Corp. Chief Executive Officer Walt Anderson.  “We have run simulations of the rescue mission that validate its feasibility, and we are ready to work with SES ASTRA in Luxembourg and with the insurance sector to make the flight a reality.”

Definition work on the SLES has been completed by Orbital Recovery Corp., which is now creating its industrial team by seeking competitive bids for spacecraft hardware and systems from international suppliers.  Earlier this month, the company announced its selection of the DLR German Aerospace Center’s robotic technology for the SLES docking and linkup with telecom satellites in orbit.  In October, Aon Space joined the Orbital Recovery Corp. team to provide insurance brokering and risk management services.

The SLES is a modular spacecraft that can be adapted to operate with a full range of three-axis telecommunications satellites — from the small relay platforms to massive 5-metric ton spacecraft such as ASTRA 1K.  Proven, off-the-shelf hardware will be used in production of the SLES to keep costs down and ensure high reliability. It will be built around a main bus that contains the spacecraft control/management systems and the primary ion propulsion system.

In addition to the rescue of stranded satellites, the SLES is designed to extend the operating lifetimes of telecommunications satellites in geostationary orbit that routinely are junked when their on-board fuel supply runs out.  Orbital Recovery Corp. has identified more than 40 spacecraft currently in orbit that are candidates for life extension using the SLES.

The first SLES mission is targeted for 2004 on the ASTRA 1K rescue flight, with two more deployments the following year and three annually beginning in 2006.

Orbital Recovery Corp. has offices in Washington, D.C. and Los Angeles, and will add an Asia-Pacific presence in early 2003.  More information on Orbital Recovery Corp. is available on the company’s Web site: www.orbitalrecovery.com.

SpaceRef staff editor.