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Starfish Space Aims to Extend Life of Intelsat Satellite in 2026 Mission

ByHuey Yee Ong

Jun 30, 2024

Starfish Space Aims to Extend Life of Intelsat Satellite in 2026 Mission

Starfish Space and Intelsat’s 2026 mission aims to revolutionize satellite operations by extending the life of an expensive geostationary orbit (GEO) satellite. Utilizing Starfish’s Otter spacecraft, the mission will boost an operational Intelsat satellite’s orbit, potentially adding several more years to its lifespan.

Two-Part Mission Plan

Starfish’s co-founder, Trevor Bennett, emphasized the mission’s broader goal: to integrate satellite servicing into standard fleet operations for commercial customers.

The mission has a two-part plan:

  1. The Otter will maneuver to a retired Intelsat satellite in the GEO “graveyard” orbit to demonstrate docking capability.
  2. It will then dock with an operational Intelsat satellite and use its propulsion system to elevate the satellite’s orbit.

This mission with Intelsat could pave the way for a new market in on-orbit satellite servicing, including life extension and disposal services. Starfish envisions a future where fleets of Otter spacecraft provide various in-orbit services on demand. The company has concentrated on developing core technologies in maneuvering, robotics, and software to scale its operations quickly.

Major satellite operators are closely monitoring startups like Starfish, which are developing technologies that could significantly impact the economics of satellite operations. Extending the operational life of multi-million or billion-dollar satellites, initially designed for 20 years, could yield substantial financial benefits.

The Strategic Benefits of Satellite Servicing

Bennett highlighted the strategic value of such services, allowing operators to make agile decisions regarding their satellites, such as extending their lifespan or relocating them. The flexibility offered by satellite servicing aligns with operators’ needs to remain competitive in the market.

Starfish has already launched a smaller version of its servicing vehicle, the Otter Pup, for demonstration purposes. While technical issues prevented docking with another satellite, the Otter Pup successfully rendezvoused and imaged a D-Orbit spacecraft. Another Otter Pup mission is planned for 2025, with a separate Otter mission under a $37.5 million Space Force contract slated for 2026.

Bennett envisions a future where satellite interactions in orbit become routine, reducing the excitement and uniqueness of such missions as they become commonplace. The 2026 mission with Intelsat represents a significant step towards achieving this vision.

Featured Image courtesy of vecstock on Freepik

Huey Yee Ong

Hello, from one tech geek to another. Not your beloved TechCrunch writer, but a writer with an avid interest in the fast-paced tech scenes and all the latest tech mojo. I bring with me a unique take towards tech with a honed applied psychology perspective to make tech news digestible. In other words, I deliver tech news that is easy to read.

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