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ConeXpress-OLEV (CX-OLEV)

ConeXpress-OLEV [Orbital Recovery]

Orbital Recovery Corporation's ConeXpress-OLEV (CX-OLEV, Orbital Life Extension Vehicle, formerly Spacecraft Life Extension System, SLES) is a novel concept that will significantly prolong the operating lifetimes of these valuable telecommunications satellites.

The ConeXpress-OLEV will operate as an orbital "tugboat," supplying the propulsion, navigation and guidance to keep a telecom satellite in its proper orbital slot for many years. Another application of the ConeXpress-OLEV is the rescue of spacecraft that have been placed in a wrong orbit by their launch vehicles, or which have become stranded in an incorrect orbital location during positioning maneuvers.

The ConeXpress-OLEV is a relatively small spacecraft, with the targeted mass at launch of 1200 kg. Only flight proven, off-the-shelf hardware is used in its production to keep costs down and ensure high reliability.

It is built around a main bus that contains the spacecraft control/management systems and the primary ion propulsion system. Large deployable solar panels provide power for the ConeXpress-OLEV' on-board systems as well as for the ion propulsion system.

The ConeXpress-OLEV is designed to easily mate with all telecommunications satellites now in space or on the drawing boards. After launch, the ConeXpress-OLEV will rendezvous with the telecommunications satellite, approaching it from below for docking. The ConeXpress-OLEV will link up using a proprietary docking device that connects to the telecommunications satellite's apogee kick motor.

Apogee kick motors are used by nearly every telecommunications satellite for orbital boost and station-keeping, and they provide a strong, easily accessible interface point for the ConeXpress-OLEV' linkup that is always within the satellite's center of gravity.

The company is targeting the first ConeXpress-OLEV mission for 2007. Orbital Recovery Corporation has selected Ariane as the primary launch vehicle for its Geosynchronous Spacecraft Life Extension System (ConeXpress-OLEV), signing an agreement with Arianespace to orbit at least four ConeXpress-OLEV space tugs.

In a unique approach to spacecraft development, Dutch Space will build the ConeXpress OLEV based on a payload adapter that is used on every mission of the Ariane 5 launcher. This allows flight-proven hardware to serve as the structure for ConeXpress OLEV, and opens regular launch opportunities for the space tug on Ariane 5. Dutch Space has been working for some time on evolving the Ariane 5 payload adapter unit into a self-propelled spacecraft pursuing this conceptual work under a program supported by the European Space Agency. Dutch Space's self-propelled spacecraft concept was designated ConeXpress, a name that refers to the truncated cone shape of the Ariane 5 payload adapter unit. The adapter serves as an interface between Ariane 5 and its commercial satellite payloads, with the satellite mounted atop the unit. In its current utilization, the adapter unit is empty inside. For its operation as ConeXpress-OLEV, the adaptor will be equipped with ion propulsion system and guidance/flight control electronics. ConeXpress-OLEV will continue to serve as a payload adapter for Ariane 5 missions, and once the satellite atop it has been successfully deployed in flight, the vehicle will be released from the launcher to begin its own mission as an independent space tug.

After Dutch Space pulled out off the Orbital Recovery Corp., the remaining partners formed in 2007 a new venture called Orbital Satellite Service offering the SMART-1 based SMART-OLEV.

Nation: USA
Type / Application: In-orbit service and recovery
Operator: Orbital Recovery Corp.
Contractors: Dutch Space, Orbital Recovery Corp., DLR German Aerospace Center (docking probe)
Equipment: Docking probe
Configuration: ConeXpress (modified Ariane-5 payload adapter)
Propulsion: Ion engines
Power: 2 deployable solar arrays, batteries
Mass: ~ 1200 kg
Orbit: GEO
Satellite COSPAR Date LS Launch Vehicle Remarks
ConeXpress-OLEV 1 (CX-OLEV 1) - cancelled Ko ELA-3 Ariane-5 with ?
ConeXpress-OLEV 2 (CX-OLEV 2) - cancelled Ko ELA-3 Ariane-5 with ?
ConeXpress-OLEV 3 (CX-OLEV 3) - cancelled Ko ELA-3 Ariane-5 with ?
ConeXpress-OLEV 4 (CX-OLEV 4) - cancelled Ko ELA-3 Ariane-5 with ?


  • Orbital Recovery Website