Orbit Fab to launch orbital fuel tanker next year


San Francisco, California-based startup Orbit Fab is to launch an orbital fuel tanker containing hydrazine propellant in late 2022 or early 2023

The company’s second tanker will demonstrate all of the elements of the company’s tanker technology, which has been designed for for refueling spacecraft while in orbit. Orbit Fab launched into a low Earth orbit what it bills as the world’s first “Gas Station in Space” propellant depot Tenzing, last June and earlier this month raised US$10 million in funding from investors including Northrop Grumman and Lockheed Martin.

Orbit Fab’s Rapidly Attachable Fluid Transfer Interface (RAFTI), is a fueling port that enables spacecraft to be refueled in orbit, and can be used as a drop-in replacement for existing satellite fill-and-drain valves.

CEO of Orbit Fab Daniel Faber said, “Our robust RAFTI system was designed to refuel large US Department of Defense, intelligence community, and commercial assets in geostationary orbit, so commencing operations in this orbit will be an important milestone for us. This GEO tanker will have the capability to store propellant for up to 15 years, though of course we provide the fuel that satellites need, where and when they need it.”

Orbit Fab’s tanker gets to geostationary orbit aboard a Spaceflight Inc. Sherpa-ES orbital transfer vehicle (OTV), using a novel trajectory that takes it first around the back of the moon. Launching on a SpaceX rocket alongside Intuitive Machines’ IM-2 lunar lander, the mission is facilitated by the newly-formed GeoJump, which is offering rideshare missions to GEO in partnership with Spaceflight.

James Bultitude, Orbit Fab’s chief engineer said,  “This is the first tanker in this orbit, and Spaceflight has come up with a new way to get us there efficiently. Hydrazine fuel will be available for delivery as soon as it arrives, though we intend to take some time to demonstrate our long-term storage technology.

“When it’s not making a fuel delivery, we will be parking our tanker a few hundred kilometers away from the geostationary belt so as not to clutter up the orbit.”

Orbit Fab recently announced that it is moving its headquarters to Colorado, supported by nearly $5M in economic incentives from the Colorado state government.


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About Author


Ben has worked as a journalist and editor, covering technology, engineering and industry for the last 20 years. Initially writing about subjects from nuclear submarines to autonomous cars to future design and manufacturing technologies, he was editor of a leading UK-based engineering magazine before becoming editor of Aerospace Testing in 2017.

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