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Intelsat Orders GEO Servicing Mission from Starfish Space 

By Rachel Jewett | June 26, 2024
Starfish Space’s Otter will dock with an Intelsat satellite. Photo: Starfish Space

Starfish Space’s Otter will dock with an Intelsat satellite. Photo: Starfish Space

Intelsat has ordered a satellite servicing mission from Starfish Space for its Otter servicing vehicle. This will be Starfish’s first mission to provide services to a commercial satellite operator with Otter.

Under the deal announced Wednesday, Starfish will begin its first servicing mission for Intelsat in 2026. At first, Otter will dock with and maneuver a retired Intelsat satellite in Geostationary graveyard orbit in order to validate the Otter approach and docking. 

Then, Otter will dock with an unspecified Intelsat satellite and provide life extension services, using its onboard propulsion system to extend the satellite’s life in orbit. 

Intelsat has been a leader in investing in satellite servicing missions in GEO. The operator made history with Northrop Grumman’s SpaceLogistics subsidiary in 2020 when SpaceLogistics successfully docked two commercial satellites in orbit for the first time. Intelsat currently has two satellites being serviced with Mission Extension Vehicles (MEV) MEV-1 and MEV-2, and also has two future Mission Extension Pods (MEP) under contract with SpaceLogistics. 

Jean-Luc Froeliger, Intelsat’s senior vice president of Space Systems, said in an email to Via Satellite that Intelsat performed a thorough evaluation of Starfish’s technology, and docking with a satellite in graveyard orbit mitigates the risk before docking with an active satellite. 

Intelsat and Starfish said this collaboration will expand the market for satellite servicing. 

“Life extension is a new tool that we are using in our satellite replacement strategy where it makes business sense. This is not the standard, but an option that we can use when applicable,” Froeliger told Via Satellite. “Starfish presented an attractive business solution with an acceptable schedule and well managed development risks.”

Starfish Space was in the news last year for its work to save the first ‘Otter Pup’ mission, which fell into an uncontrollable rotation after it was deployed. While Otter Pup didn’t complete its primary mission, Starfish Space executed a successful in-space rendezvous between with a D-Orbit satellite in early 2024. In May, Starfish Space won a Space Systems Command contract to dock with national security space assets. 

“Starfish Space is delighted to be supporting Intelsat with services provided by Otter,” Dr. Trevor Bennett, co-founder of Starfish Space said in a news release. “They are an incredible team at the forefront of the industry and the Otter will help them deliver even more to their customers. We’re also excited that this will be the first of many Otters that will make on-orbit servicing a standard part of satellite operations.”