Israeli Firm Plans Rescue System for Wayward Satellites

No longer lost in space?
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Effective Space Solutions DeOrbiter micro satellite

Israel-based Effective Space Solutions is developing an ionic-drive rescue system that can be used to dock with and restore failed satellites to useful orbits, according to the company. The company hopes to test its system, called the De Orbiter, on two recently launched Galileo GPS satellites that are stuck in useless orbits and therefore are considered lost.

Much work needs to be done regarding planning for this rescue. For example, insurance companies paid for the GPS satellites once they were lost and now own the satellites. However, the correct orbital positions for the two wayward satellites are still controlled by the satellite's operator. Also, the planning for launch of the any system into space requires a great deal of international coordination.

However, Effective Space Solutions’ De Orbiter is lightweight and can be launched on a wider range of vehicles than more traditional satellites. This is because the De Orbiter uses an ionic drive and carries little fuel on board. In addition to rescuing otherwise-healthy satellites in the wrong orbit, the company’s web site lists other applications for the De Orbiter.

“The company designed the De Orbiter micro satellite that will rendezvous and dock with communication satellites. After docking, the De Orbiter will extend the communication satellite useful life by allowing the operator to exploit its onboard fuel to the last drop, then will keep it in the designated slot. [It can also] de-orbit the satellite to a ‘graveyard orbit’ or any combination of these services. The De Orbiter will also be able to move communication satellites to a different slots and to monitor faulty appendages.”

The DeOrbiter has a standard interface that can dock with complementary standard attachment points that are built into most current satellites. In addition, the company says that a De Orbiter can be used up to 20 times, perhaps shuttling from one failing satellite to another to perform its service.

Effective Space Solutions is now working with insurance companies and others to work out a plan to rescue the two lost Galileo GPS satellites.

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