Orbital Recovery Corporation has selected Ariane 5 as the primary launch vehicle for its Geosynch Spacecraft Life Extension System (SLESTM), signing an agreement with Arianespace to orbit at least four SLES space tugs beginning in 2005.
SLES will be carried as a secondary payload on Ariane 5 launches, with a liftoff mass of 500-800 kg., depending on the space tug's specific mission.
The unique SLES is designed to extend the useful lifetime of multi-million dollar telecommunications satellites by 10 years or more, and also is capable of rescuing satellites stranded in incorrect orbits.
"With this agreement, the SLES is joining some of the world's top satellite payloads on the Ariane manifest," Orbital Recovery Corp. Chief Executive Officer Walt Anderson said. "Ariane's flexibility was one of the deciding factors in our selection."
The agreement calls for an initial SLES launch on Ariane 5 in the first quarter of 2005, followed by two more SLES flights in 2005, and provides for additional launches in 2005 and beyond.
"Arianespace has a tradition of working with promising new companies, and we are pleased to provide launch services for the innovative SLES," said Arianespace Chief Executive Officer Jean-Yves Le Gall.
"Our experience in launching multi-satellite payloads combined with Ariane's lift capability allows the SLES to be launched when needed to serve Orbital Recovery Corporation's mission requirements."
Operating as an orbital "tugboat," the SLES will supply the propulsion, navigation and guidance to maintain a telecom satellite in its proper orbital slot for many years.
Currently, telecommunications spacecraft are placed in a graveyard orbit as they deplete their on-board propellant loads near the end of the typical 10-15-year operation lifetimes, even though the satellites' revenue-generating communications relay payloads continue to function.
Orbital Recovery Corporation has identified more than 40 telecommunications satellites in orbit today that are candidates for life extension using the SLES.
In addition, the SLES will be used to rescue 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.
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 platform, approaching it from below for docking. The linkup will use a docking system that connects to the telecom satellite's apogee kick motor.
Control of the SLES will be handled by Orbital Recovery Corporation following the space tug's launch and during its initial free-flight phase. Docking and checkout of the SLES with the telecommunications satellite 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.
Definition work on the SLES has been completed by Orbital Recovery Corp., which is building its industrial team. Robotic technology from the DLR German Aerospace Center has been selected for the SLES docking and linkup, and Aon Space is providing insurance brokering and risk management services.
Orbital Recovery Corp. has offices in Washington, D.C. and Los Angeles in the United States, and its Asia-Pacific operations are handled by the company's Sydney, Australia office.
Orbital Recovery Corp
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