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Digital Battlespace

New lease of life beckons for satellites

5th May 2021 - 08:00 GMT | by Arie Egozi in Tel Aviv

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Will this solution extend the service life of in-orbit satellites? (Photo: Astroscale)

A US-owned Israeli firm is developing a logistical solution to avoid the problem of drift orbit.

Israeli company Effective Space has designed an auxiliary satellite to prolong the life of an operational satellite in low-earth or geostationary orbit by up to 15 years.

Tests of the new system are being conducted in cooperation with US company Astroscale, which acquired the intellectual property, assets, operations and engineering staff of Effective Space in 2020. This marked the first acquisition of an Israeli space company by a foreign firm.

Effective Space was established in 2013 by  Arie Helzband to produce satellites in Israel that can be launched and attached to ‘veteran’ space platforms to provide fuel for their thrusters.

It is defined as a civil company — but as many commercial imaging and communication satellites also serve the military, the auxiliary satellite CONOPS could prolong the lifespan of defence satellites by many years.

Helzband told Shephard that the service satellite (under development at the Effective Space R&D centre) would meet the old satellite in its orbit, using its motors to avoid the drift that signals the end of the service life of a satellite.

Drift commonly ‘spells the operational failure’ of a communications satellite, Helzband added, as it ‘leaves the spot in space where its antennas can communicate with the ground stations. Our special satellite is capable of prolonging the life of an old satellite up to a period of 15 years’.

He added that the company plans to use off-the-shelf satellites to carry the special service kit to feed the old satellite with the necessary fuel.

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