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Orbit Fab, U.S Air Force Sign CRADA for On-Orbit Refueling Technology

By Doug Messier
Parabolic Arc
October 15, 2021
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SAN FRANCISCO, October 14, 2021 (Orbit Fab PR) — Orbit Fab, the Gas Stations in Space™ company, has entered into a Cooperative Research and Development Agreement (CRADA) with the U.S. Air Force Research Laboratory (AFRL), Space Vehicle Directorate, and the Spacecraft Technology Division to advance on-orbit refueling technology.

Orbit Fab will offer a ubiquitous supply of propellant in Earth orbit. Providing satellites the right fuel, in the right location, when they need it, will enable next generation capabilities for in-space refueling, servicing, assembly and manufacturing. Under the collaboration, Orbit Fab will share technical details and make available its hardware products, such as the RAFTI (The Rapidly Attachable Fluid Transfer Interface) and a cooperative docking guidance solution. The Air Force, in return, will review Orbit Fab’s refueling technologies, advise on requirements and designs, and make available its facilities for advancing performance and qualification. The knowledge exchange will allow Orbit Fab to bring to market its products for both defense users and commercial companies.

Orbit Fab Vice President of Business Development Adam Harris says, “Orbit Fab is proud to support the DoD. Space Force and AFRL are taking on new mission areas such as responsive space which is enabled by refueling. Our goal is for future spacecraft operators to never have to worry about using propellant when the mission demands it.”

To accelerate delivery of reliable, high performing products and services for defense users, Orbit Fab intends to leverage AFRL’s experience and long history of providing space capabilities for national security missions. This agreement will reduce the risk necessary to bring refueling to the Department of Defense (DoD) space assets. Upon the successful completion of the planned activities, Orbit Fab will begin offering satellite refueling services. This will provide the warfighter with the space vehicle mobility necessary to ensure freedom of action to maintain space superiority.

Program Manager for the Air Force Research Laboratory Karl Stolleis says, “Orbit Fab is an early leader for in-orbit refueling, offering significant extension of space vehicle lifetimes, increased in-orbit mobility, and new mission concept options. This is a key strategic opportunity for the AFRL to be able to benefit from increasing the reusability of our space assets through knowledge exchange with Orbit Fab.”

This partnership follows Orbit Fab’s $3 million program with the U.S. Air Force to fully flight qualify the RAFTI service valve. Previously, Orbit Fab received a National Science Foundation (NSF) grant to test its docking guidance system, and successfully demonstrated its propellant storage and delivery systems in the first ever private transfer of water to the International Space Station.

Orbit Fab CEO Daniel Faber states, “This collaboration is a testament to the quality and readiness of our products. Iterating on our cooperative Rendezvous Proximity Operations and Docking(RPOD) guidance solution with the AFRL is a valuable step in our vision to see Orbit Fab as the primary distributor of in-orbit propellant for both commercial and defense partners.”

About Orbit Fab: Orbit Fab believes a bustling in-space economy is a precondition to permanent jobs in space. By providing a ubiquitous supply of satellite propellant in Earth Orbit (branded Gas Stations in SpaceTM), the company improves existing space business models (communications and Earth observation) and helps open new industries like space tourism, manufacturing and mining. Orbit Fab has racked up a number of world-firsts: the first ever commercially available in-space refueling port (RAFTITM), the first ever private company to resupply the International Space Station with water, and the first ever satellite fuel depot. The future for satellites is no longer restricted to the fuel they are launched with. Orbit Fab delivers the fuel and other materials that are needed, where and when they are needed, to enable business models never before thought possible. The company recently announced that it is moving its headquarters to Colorado.

Contact: Jeremy Schiel, Co-Founder and CDO, [email protected]