Orbit Fab, the company that wants to install gas stations in space

Orbit Fab wants to implement a propellant supply chain in space, that is, a network of service stations to supply the various satellites with fuel and thus increase their performance or extend their life. .

A refueling interface for satellites

Orbit Fab CEO Daniel Faber explains that in the relatively near future the orbits of the moon and the earth will be much busier. He ensures that certain industries will even migrate into space, which logically causes a sharp increase in the need for supplies. ” Leaving this rock would be one of the most important things we could do for the long-term survival of the species, which is why I took the plunge. says Daniel Faber. With its solution, the company wants not only to allow humanity to establish itself in the cosmos in the long term, but also to limit space debris,” haveOver the past decade, nearly 200 satellites worth about a billion dollars had to be destroyed because they ran out of fuel. I lived with the frustration of having one tank too long “, continues the managing director. In fact, before he founded Orbit Fab, Faber was the CEO of the company Deep Space Industries, which aims to develop the supply of telecommunications satellites and is interested in the mining of asteroids.

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The company has designed a system called Rapidly Attachable Fluid Transfer Interface (RAFTI), which has already been tested on board the ISS. This is an interface that attaches to a satellite and then allows it to be refueled while in orbit. The idea of ​​Orbit Fab is to place fuel depots in orbit around the Earth (near and far) as well as around the Moon. Shuttles carrying this fuel then relay between the depot and the satellites equipped with the RAFTI platform to resupply them. The company’s customers can also choose another solution: instead of a shuttle driving the road between the two points, their satellites equipped with the platform can go directly to the fuel depot to be refueled.

So far, the startup is the only company that has managed to obtain funding from Lockheed Martin Ventures and Northrop Grumman, two real giants of the aerospace sector and its history. Also, Orbit Fab was the first private company to send water aboard the International Space Station.

Orbit Fab is growing fast

Although still young, the company placed a fuel depot, Tanker-001 Tenzing, into low orbit in 2021. It also signed, with Astroscale, the first agreement to sell fuel for satellites in orbit. Astroscale’s LEXI devices for keeping satellites alive will be equipped with the RAFTI interface. This will resupply LEXI with up to 1,000 kg of xenon propellant, the fuel most commonly used for ion propulsion of spacecraft.

In addition, Orbit Fab recently won a $12 million contract to integrate its fuel interface with US military satellites. The funding includes $6 million from the US Air Force and US Space Force and $6 million from Orbit Fab’s private investors. This partnership should allow the US military to better utilize their satellites by multiplying their performance.

Illustrations of fuel depots in Earth orbit.

Orbit Fab’s network of fuel depots will be in Earth orbit, as well as lunar orbit. Image: Orbit Fab

As the space economy develops rapidly, Orbit Fab could very quickly take advantage of this trend and be one of its key players. Orbit Fab’s solution, which offers a $20 million 100-liter tank, saves the cost of a new satellite, but the company needs to prove its long-term reliability.

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