Maxar Technologies selected by NASA to build Intelsat satellite and SPIDER robotic arm

Monday February 3, 2020 0 comments Tags: Westminster, Maxar Technologies, Intelsat, NASA, Dan Jablonsky, SPIDER, Megan Fitzgerald

WESTMINSTER -- Virginia-based Intelsat (NYSE: I) has selected Maxar Technologies (NYSE:MAXR) (TSX:MAXR) to manufacture Intelsat 40e, a next-generation geostationary communications satellite scheduled to launch in 2022.maxar-logo 

Maxar will integrate NASA’s Tropospheric Emissions: Monitoring of Pollution (TEMPO) payload with the Intelsat 40e satellite.

“When it’s launched, Intelsat 40e will be the newest addition to our next-generation Intelsat Epic platform, which is already providing our global customers with flexible, high-performance connectivity they can count on today – and in the future,” said Intelsat CEO Stephen Spengler.

“Intelsat continuously invests in innovative new satellite and hybrid technologies that make it easy and affordable for our customers to connect people, devices and networks, even in the most remote locations. We look forward to partnering with Maxar on this next build.”

Based on Maxar’s proven 1300-class satellite platform and Intelsat Epic, Intelsat 40e will provide Intelsat customers across North and Central America with flexible, high-throughput, “coast-to-coast” coverage.

The additional capacity will also support the growing number of customers utilizing Intelsat managed-service offerings, including those working with Intelsat to solve connectivity challenges for commercial and private planes, moving vehicles on land and other mobility applications.

In 2019, NASA chose Maxar to host its TEMPO payload utilizing the Space and Missile Systems Center Hosted Payload Solutions (HoPS) contract vehicle. Now that Maxar has identified Intelsat 40e as the satellite, the company will begin the integration process. TEMPO is a UV-visible spectrometer that will detect pollutants by measuring sunlight reflected and scattered from the Earth’s surface and atmosphere.

The resulting data from TEMPO will be used to enhance air-quality forecasts in North America, enabling the more effective early public warning of pollution incidents. The combined Intelsat 40e and TEMPO programs are expected to be accretive to Maxar’s earnings and cash flow on an annual basis throughout the production process.

“Maxar and Intelsat have a strategic partnership that goes back more than 40 years, and we are honored to have been chosen for Intelsat 40e – the 54th satellite that Maxar will build for Intelsat over the course of our long and successful history together,” said Maxar CEO Dan Jablonsky.

“Maxar is also honored to have collaborated with NASA for more than 50 years, and we are excited to leverage our strong legacy in bridging commercial and government needs to integrate the agency’s TEMPO payload with Intelsat 40e.

“Maxar’s recent work with NASA on TEMPO and several other Space Infrastructure missions demonstrate positive momentum for our expanding civil space portfolio.”

Last week, Maxar announced its selection by NASA to perform an in-space assembly demonstration using a lightweight robotic arm. The arm, called SPIDER (Space Infrastructure Dexterous Robot), will be integrated with the spacecraft bus Maxar is building for NASA’s Restore-L project, which plans to refuel a satellite in low Earth orbit.

The award is valued at $142 million and follows a successful ground demonstration in 2017, and a review in August 2018 that validated Maxar’s first-generation end-to-end system architecture and detailed robotic arm design.

Maxar is identifying roughly $2 million of work to be performed by West Virginia University through its West Virginia Robotic Technology Center, including independent verification of SPIDER’s capabilities through multiple performance studies to increase the reliability of in-space assembly tasks.

The program was called Dragonfly during the design and ground demonstration phase.

SPIDER will be built by Maxar’s team in Pasadena, Calif., which has previously delivered six robotic arms for NASA’s Mars rovers and landers, including the arm currently operating on InSight Lander and an arm for the upcoming Mars 2020 Rover.

SPIDER will enable spacecraft components to be robotically assembled and reconfigured while on-orbit.

For Restore-L, SPIDER will assemble multiple antenna reflector elements into one large antenna reflector. This revolutionary process allows satellites, telescopes and other systems to use larger and more powerful components that might not fit into a standard rocket fairing when fully assembled.

The technologies developed under SPIDER could ultimately enable entirely new architectures and space infrastructure for a wide range of government and commercial missions, including commercial satellites, human space exploration to the Moon and Mars under the Artemis program and in-space telescope assembly.

SPIDER will also demonstrate in-space manufacturing using Tethers Unlimited's MakerSat. MakerSat will manufacture a 10-meter lightweight composite beam, verifying its capability to form large spacecraft truss structures for future missions.

As it manufactures the beam, MakerSat will characterize the beam’s shape and structural performance to determine if a structure built in space performs differently than one made on Earth.

“Maxar has always led innovation in space infrastructure, transforming the commercial satellite industry with advances such as high-throughput satellite technologies for high-speed internet and powerful electric propulsion for next-generation space transportation,” said Megan Fitzgerald, Maxar’s senior VP and GM, Space Infrastructure.

“SPIDER, in combination with our flexible 1300-class spacecraft bus and technologies for in-space operations, will enable new applications in communications and remote sensing satellites, large in-space assembled telescopes and future exploration missions that support a sustained human presence beyond Earth orbit.

"We’re delighted to add this innovative program to our growing civil and government space portfolio.”