Orbit Fab is a startup company that aims to provide in-space fuel delivery services for satellites and spacecraft. The company’s vision is to create a network of gas stations in orbit, where satellites can replenish their propellant and extend their lifespan. This article will explore the importance of in-space fuel delivery, Orbit Fab’s innovations in satellite refueling, the company’s impact on the space industry, and its plans and exciting developments.
The Importance of In-Space Fuel Delivery 🚀
In-space fuel delivery is a crucial capability for the future of space exploration and utilization. It can offer several benefits, such as:
Augmenting Mission Capabilities
Satellites and spacecraft typically carry a limited amount of propellant, which limits their maneuverability, functionality, and lifetime. By refueling in orbit, satellites can perform more complex and frequent maneuvers, such as orbit changes, collision avoidance, and formation flying. This can enhance their mission capabilities and performance, as well as enable new types of missions, such as on-orbit servicing, assembly, and repair.
Launching satellites and spacecraft is expensive and risky. By refueling in orbit, satellites can reduce their launch mass and volume, which can lower the launch cost and increase the payload capacity. Moreover, refueling can extend the lifetime of satellites, which can defer the need for replacement and disposal. This can save money and resources, as well as reduce the space debris problem.
Sustainable Space Exploration
Refueling in orbit can also enable more sustainable and ambitious space exploration. By using in-situ resources, such as water from asteroids or the moon, satellites, and spacecraft can reduce their dependence on Earth-based supplies and increase their autonomy. This can facilitate the exploration of deeper and farther regions of space, as well as the development of permanent human settlements in orbit and beyond.
Orbit Fab’s Innovations in Satellite Refueling
Orbit Fab is a pioneer in the field of in-space fuel delivery. The company has developed several innovations in satellite refueling, such as:
Flight Proven Hardware
Orbit Fab has designed and tested a novel refueling interface, called the Rapid Attachable Fluid Transfer Interface (RAFTI). RAFTI is compatible with existing satellite components and standards and can enable quick and reliable connections between the fuel supplier and the fuel receiver. RAFTI has been flight-proven on two missions, one in 2019 and one in 2020, where it demonstrated its functionality and performance in orbit.
Orbit Fab has also established a commercial service for in-space fuel delivery, called the Tanker Program. The Tanker Program offers customers the option to purchase fuel in orbit, either on a per-kg basis or on a subscription basis. The company plans to launch its first operational tanker, called Tenzing, in 2022, which will carry 150 kg of hydrazine propellant. The company also plans to launch more tankers in the future, with different types and amounts of propellants, to meet the diverse needs of the market.
Collaborations and Partnerships
Orbit Fab has also formed several collaborations and partnerships with various stakeholders in the space industry, such as government agencies, launch providers, satellite operators, and space agencies. For example, Orbit Fab has received funding and support from the US Air Force, NASA, and DARPA, as well as secured launch contracts with SpaceX, Momentus, and Spaceflight. Orbit Fab has also partnered with satellite manufacturers, such as Lockheed Martin, Northrop Grumman, and Maxar, to integrate RAFTI into their satellite designs and platforms.
Orbit Fab’s Impact on the Space Industry
Orbit Fab’s innovations and services have made a significant impact on the space industry, as evidenced by:
Securing Major Investments
Orbit Fab has attracted major investments from prominent investors and venture capitalists, such as Caffeinated Capital, SpaceFund, Marubeni Ventures, and The Engine. The company has raised over $10 million in seed funding and is currently raising its Series A round. The company has also won several grants and contracts from government and commercial entities, totaling over $6 million.
Recognitions and Awards
Orbit Fab has also received several recognitions and awards for its achievements and contributions to the space industry. For example, Orbit Fab was named as one of the Fast Company’s World Changing Ideas in 2020, and one of the CNBC’s Upstart 100 in 2019. Orbit Fab also won first place in the TechCrunch Disrupt Battlefield in 2019, and second place in the NewSpace Business Plan Competition in 2018.
Enabling Space Settlements
Orbit Fab’s vision is to enable the creation of space settlements, where humans can live and work in orbit and beyond. The company believes that in-space fuel delivery is a key enabler for this vision, as it can support the development of a robust and resilient space infrastructure and economy. The company’s motto is “Gas Stations in Space”, which reflects its aspiration to become the backbone of the space transportation and logistics industry.
Future Plans and Exciting Developments
Orbit Fab has ambitious plans and exciting developments for the future, such as:
Orbit Fab plans to expand its operations and services to cover more regions and orbits in space. The company aims to deploy multiple tankers in different orbits, such as low Earth orbit, geostationary orbit, and cislunar orbit, to serve a wider range of customers and missions. The company also plans to establish regional hubs and depots, where tankers can be refilled and replenished, to increase the availability and accessibility of fuel in space.
Advancements in Technology
Orbit Fab plans to advance its technology and capabilities to offer more value and options to its customers. The company plans to develop and launch new types of tankers, with different sizes, shapes, and functionalities, to accommodate different types of propellants, such as green propellants, electric propellants, and cryogenic propellants. The company also plans to improve and optimize its RAFTI interface, to enable faster and safer connections, as well as to support data and power transfer.
Contributing to the Space Economy
Orbit Fab plans to contribute to the growth and development of the space economy, by creating new opportunities and markets for in-space fuel delivery. The company plans to leverage its network of gas stations in space, to facilitate the exchange and trade of fuel and other resources among different actors and entities in space. The company also plans to collaborate and cooperate with other players and stakeholders in the space industry, to foster a vibrant and diverse space community.