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MDA to provide mission-critical sensors for the SPACE DRONE™ on-orbit servicing spacecraft built by UK's Effective Space

July 18, 2018

 

MDA announced that a contract was signed between its recently acquired Neptec UK Ltd. (Neptec) company and Effective Space, the UK company pioneering last-mile logistics in space, for the supply of a space flight LIDAR and infrared camera for its on-orbit servicing SPACE DRONE™ spacecraft. 

 

Capable of extending the life of ageing satellites by as many as 15 years, the SPACE DRONE™ spacecraft  uses MDA's LIDAR and infrared camera to confidently and safely approach and dock with orbiting geostationary satellites. Two SPACE DRONE™ spacecraft will be launched into orbit in 2020, as part of a $100 million contract with a major regional satellite operator. MDA will execute the project from its newly expanded United Kingdom business.

To allow the SPACE DRONE™ spacecraft to accurately approach other spacecraft for servicing, MDA sensors will be used to generate a 3D picture of the target spacecraft, providing critical information on the distance to the other vehicle. Once docked, the SPACE DRONE™ spacecraft will provide attitude and orbit control for the combined vehicle, allowing the satellite to continue operating.

The technology that will enable this mission was developed at the laboratories on Harwell Campus in the UK, through funding and support from the UK Space Agency. The space LIDAR was designed to form part of an automated landing system for a lunar lander. Capable of operating safely and reliably in the harsh environment of space, LIDAR is also perfectly suited for rendezvous and docking in Earth orbit. The LIDAR uses reflected pulses of light from a laser to build a 3D map of any target, be it the moon or another spacecraft.

 

"We are thrilled to be partnering with Effective Space on this project," said Mike Greenley, group president of MDA. The ability to perform safe rendezvous and docking will be a vital part of future space exploration, whether it is applied to extension of satellite life, de-orbiting space debris, or building the next generation of space stations and human outposts. We are fortunate to be able to immediately leverage our recent expansion of MDA's UK business to exploit past investments by the UK Space Agency, in full alignment with the UK Space Agency's strategy to establish an on-orbit servicing industrial capability. As the established world leader in space sensors and robotics, we are pleased to expand this capability through our UK business. "

"This mission, and others like it, will provide key steps towards an exciting future for the burgeoning on-orbit servicing market, and we are pleased to leverage MDA's technology base to support UK companies such as Effective Space, and with MDA playing a key role," said Kerry Sanz, Programme Manager at MDA.

"Space exploration pushes the boundaries of human ingenuity and produces new technologies that often have commercial applications," said Libby Jackson, Human Spaceflight and Microgravity Programme Manager at the UK Space Agency. This is a great example which highlights the value of our investment in European Space Agency exploration programmes and the capabilities of the UK's growing space sector."

"Ensuring our spacecraft are able to efficiently and safely rendezvous with satellites was a critical requirement for us, and NEPTEC's LIDAR and infrared camera technologies were the standout choice," added Arie Halsband, Founder and CEO, Effective Space. "MDA has extensive experience developing solutions for some of the most challenging problems in space and we're excited to be working closely with them to advance on-orbit servicing."