Space technology Current Affairs - 2019

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MEV-1: 1st Satellite Servicing Spacecraft launched

The robotic Mission Extension Vehicle-1 (MEV-1) was successfully launched atop of Russian Proton rocket from Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan. It is first of its kind commercial satellite-servicing spacecraft. It is designed to dock with aging spacecraft more than 22,000 miles above Earth, then extend its life with aid of solar-electric thrusters. Its successful launch marks beginning of era of commercial satellite servicing in the space.

About Mission Extension Vehicle-1 (MEV-1)

It was built by Virginia-based company Northrop Grumman. It will attempt first-ever docking between two spacecraft near geostationary orbit (nearly 36,000 kilometers over the equator that is popular with communications satellite operators). It will link up with 18-year-old Intelsat communications satellite early next year. Once docked, with this old satellite, it will take over propulsion for Intelsat 901 satellite, which is running low on fuel. It will then put Intelsat back into an ideal target orbit — thus extending its useful life by as many as five years.

MEV-1’s Life span: It is designed for 15-year useful life, and can dock and undock multiple times, thus, it will be providing well in excess of 15 years of mission extension to orbital geosynchronous satellites l running low on its own propellant supply.

LESA: ESA tests device to rescue injured astronauts

European Space Agency (ESA) recently tested a device called Evacuation System Assembly (or LESA), which is designed to assist in astronaut rescue missions on the surface of Moon. As per ESA, it is world’s 1st device aimed to help future incapacitated astronauts.

About LESA

Among other preparations for NASA’s 2024 Moon mission (Artemis Mission), scientists are testing the Lunar Evacuation System Assembly, or LESA device.

It is developed by European Space Agency (ESA), an intergovernmental organisation of 22 member states dedicated to space exploration.

Feature: LESA is a pyramid-like structure. It is designed in a way to be deployed just by a single astronaut in lunar gravity to rescue an incapacitated crew mate.

Need: On mission Astronauts wear Extravehicular Activities (EVA) suits that are bulky, heavy due to which they do not allow for a full range of movement. Thus while wearing an EVA suit, there is no way that an astronaut could carry their fallen crewmate over their shoulder.

Testing: NASA astronauts are testing LESA under sea. This is because, with its rocky, sandy terrain and warm salty water, the bottom of ocean floor bears much more similarity with lunar surface.

Significance:

In order to rescue a fallen colleague, LESA can be operated just by a single astronaut thus ensuring a rapid and safe rescue.

LESA can be transported like a golf caddy and placed close to the fallen astronaut, hence enabling an astronaut to lift their crewmate onto a mobile stretcher in less than 10 minutes, before carrying them to safety of a nearby pressurised lander.