24/7 Space News
Out of gas in orbit? This US space company is here to help
Out of gas in orbit? This US space company is here to help
Colorado Springs, United States (AFP) April 27, 2023

The US company Orbit Fab is aiming to produce the go-to "gas stations" in space, its CEO tells AFP, hoping its refueling technology will make the surging satellite industry more sustainable -- and profitable.

The solar panels typically attached to satellites can generate energy for their onboard systems such as cameras and radios, but can't help the orbiting objects adjust their positions, explains Daniel Faber, who co-founded the company in 2018.

"Everything always drifts, and so very quickly, you're not where you needed to be -- so you need to keep adjusting, which means you need to keep using up propellant," he tells AFP at the space industry's annual gathering in Colorado Springs, Colorado.

Satellites' lives are therefore limited by how much fuel they can carry along with them -- at least for now.

"If you can refuel satellites in orbit," Faber says, "you can stop them having to be thrown away" -- a model he describes as "crazy" due to their high cost to manufacture and launch.

His company envisions sending several large tanks into orbit, each containing up to several tons of fuel.

Then smaller, more easily maneuverable vessels will shuttle back and forth between the tanks and satellites -- like robotic pump attendants.

Asked what the risks associated with operating such a system in orbit are, Faber is candid: "Everything you might imagine."

But he reassures that with lots of testing on the ground, and in orbit, "it's going to be safe."

Like cars, satellites hoping to receive additional propellant from Orbit Fab will have to have compatible fuel ports.

- Less weight, more profit -

Faber says that between 200 and 250 satellites are already being designed to use his company's system.

It's a market with room to grow: Some 24,500 satellites have been scheduled for launch between 2022 and 2031, according to the consultancy Euroconsult.

Orbit Fab, which employs about 60 people and is looking to hire 25 more, has already launched one tank into orbit and next plans to conduct fuel transfer tests.

In 2019, it proved the feasibility of the system with water-transfer tests at the International Space Station.

"Our first contract with the US government is to deliver them fuel in 2025" to Space Force satellites, Faber says.

He says they are planning to launch only a couple fuel shuttles to geostationary orbit, where satellites mostly lie in "a single plane around the equator" at a high altitude of about 22,000 miles (36,000 kilometers).

Satellites in low Earth orbit have much different trajectories, and more fuel shuttles will be needed.

Another added benefit of in-orbit refueling is the possibility of freeing up the key metric in rocket launches: weight.

Projects which were previously deemed infeasible for being too heavy might therefore see the light of day.

But above all, extending the life of satellites makes them more profitable in the long run.

- To the Moon -

Apart from refueling, companies are also looking at other ways of servicing satellites, with Faber saying that some 130 companies have recently popped up in the sector.

These include in-orbit "tow trucks" that can approach satellites in trouble and make repairs, such as helping deploy a solar panel or reorienting an antenna.

Orbit Fab, which recently announced it had raised $28.5 million, has a "symbiotic" relationship with these start-ups, says Faber.

Their machines will need refuelling and in return could "be doing things that we want, services we want, maybe repair our spacecraft, if there's a problem," he explains.

They have already struck an agreement to refuel craft launched by Astroscale, a Japanese company seeking to clear space debris, among other services.

Orbit Fab also aims to serve private space stations currently under development.

And it's also looking towards a possible market on and around the Moon, focusing not on extracting materials, but transforming them into propellant and delivering that to clients.

"At the moment, there's nothing there" on the Moon," says Faber.

"In five, 10, 20 years time we expect that will change dramatically."

Related Links
Rocket Science News at Space-Travel.Com

Subscribe Free To Our Daily Newsletters

The following news reports may link to other Space Media Network websites.
Orbit Fab closes Series A funding for $28.5 Million
Lafayette CO (SPX) Apr 18, 2023
Orbit Fab, the leading provider of on-orbit refueling services, has completed a successful Series A round of $28.5 million in funding during an up-round that will allow the company to accelerate fuel sales and the deployment of fuel delivery and storage infrastructure in GEO, LEO, and VLEO orbits. The milestone funding round is led by 8090 Industries, with major investments by Stride Capital, Industrious Ventures, Lockheed Martin Ventures, Tribe Capital, Good Growth Capital, and Massive Capital Pa ... read more

Russia to stay on International Space Station through 2028

Is sex in space being taken seriously by the emerging space tourism sector?

Russian cosmonauts delay ISS spacewalk

Northrop Grumman's S.S. Sally Ride departs International Space Station

SpaceX launches first expendable Falcon Heavy rocket

Out of gas in orbit? This US space company is here to help

Fish and Wildlife: SpaceX Starship debris covered 350 acres, no wildlife killed

Heavy thunderstorms force SpaceX to delay launch of Falcon Heavy rocket

Ensuring robotic arm safety during abrasions

Curiosity: Move slowly and don't break things: Sols 3810-3811

NASA Retires Mineral Mapping Instrument on Mars Orbiter

China releases first panoramic images of Mars

China to develop satellite constellation for deep space exploration

China's space missions break new ground

Space exploration for betterment of humankind

China's space missions break new ground

Latest two O3b mPOWER satellites successfully launched for SES

Viasat confirms ViaSat-3 Americas set to launch

ESA's technical centre expands

Sidus Space announces oricing of $10M Public Offering

Heed the reed: thatcher scientist on mission to revive craft

Deep-learning system explores materials' interiors from the outside

Researchers 3D print a miniature vacuum pump

Researchers capture first atomic-scale images depicting early stages of particle accelerator film formation

TESS celebrates fifth year scanning the sky for new worlds

New stellar danger to planets identified by Chandra

International team discover new exoplanet partly using direct imaging

Webb peeks into the birthplaces of exoplanets

Icy Moonquakes: Surface Shaking Could Trigger Landslides

Europe's Jupiter probe launched

Europe's JUICE mission blasts off towards Jupiter's icy moons

Spotlight on Ganymede, Juice's primary target

Subscribe Free To Our Daily Newsletters


The content herein, unless otherwise known to be public domain, are Copyright 1995-2023 - Space Media Network. All websites are published in Australia and are solely subject to Australian law and governed by Fair Use principals for news reporting and research purposes. AFP, UPI and IANS news wire stories are copyright Agence France-Presse, United Press International and Indo-Asia News Service. ESA news reports are copyright European Space Agency. All NASA sourced material is public domain. Additional copyrights may apply in whole or part to other bona fide parties. All articles labeled "by Staff Writers" include reports supplied to Space Media Network by industry news wires, PR agencies, corporate press officers and the like. Such articles are individually curated and edited by Space Media Network staff on the basis of the report's information value to our industry and professional readership. Advertising does not imply endorsement, agreement or approval of any opinions, statements or information provided by Space Media Network on any Web page published or hosted by Space Media Network. General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) Statement Our advertisers use various cookies and the like to deliver the best ad banner available at one time. All network advertising suppliers have GDPR policies (Legitimate Interest) that conform with EU regulations for data collection. By using our websites you consent to cookie based advertising. If you do not agree with this then you must stop using the websites from May 25, 2018. Privacy Statement. Additional information can be found here at About Us.