Orbit Fab to build a space station that refuels satellites by 2025; Hopes to charge $20m for a hydrazine refill

Orbit Fab hopes to charge $20m for a hydrazine refill – and you thought fuel prices down here were bad!

According to a business called Orbit Fab, which claims it can charge $20 million to top up your tank, spacecraft running low on fuel might get a refill from an orbiting station by the year 2025. Due to the increasing number of businesses launching satellites, the American startup thinks there is a market for its proposed service since these businesses want their technology to have a longer useful life. Orbital refueling is one method for making missions last longer.

Orbital Refueling
Orbit Fab’s rendering of its Satellites refueling station

As a result, Orbit Fab plans to construct, for lack of a better term, a depot 300 km from Earth in geostationary orbit that will be able to dispatch shuttles, each of which would contain, say, 100 kg of hydrazine, to incoming satellites and possibly other spacecraft that could plug into the tanks and need a refill. According to SpaceNews, appropriately equipped spacecraft might dock with the depot to replenish their own fuel supplies or to transport fuel for satellites and other vehicles.

Governmental organizations and commercial operators have “indicated their intent to be refueled in the next three to five years,” according to co-founder and chief development officer Jeremy Schiel. Additionally, he said that the business is now focusing on creating its fuel shuttles since the design of the fuel depot system is “essentially done.”

Geostationary orbits are simpler to price since they just consist of one orbit, according to Schiel. “Because of the way you’re going to get there, each orbit in low earth orbit will need a different pricing point. We’re starting with the GEO simple commercial pricing and working our way down from there.”

The sole user of the satellite refueling service that has openly signed up is Astroscale, a company that removes orbital junk. In order to keep the Astroscale Life Extension In-Orbit (LEXI) satellites in good working order until their 2026 launch into geostationary orbit, Orbit Fab has agreed to furnish 1,000 kg of xenon propellant.

Orbital Refueling
Satellites Refueling Station in Orbit

These satellites must include ports for Orbit Fab’s Rapidly Attachable Fluid Transfer Interface (RAFTI), which will be used by fuel shuttles to refuel other vessels. RAFTI ports won’t be available for today’s geostationary spacecraft, thus Orbit Fab will need to find another way to refuel them.

According to Schiel, the firm will need to depend on Orbit Fab’s gear as well as third-party vehicles that can service spacecraft made by Northrop Grumman or Astroscale as well as other spacecraft that are already in orbit. Schiel stated, “They can go maintain the old satellites, and we can maintain the maintenance vehicles that are coming up.” We can start traveling straight to them once everyone is using RAFTI fuelling ports, eventually.

Source: The Register

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Written by Alex Bruno

Freelance space writer Alex Bruno specializes in covering China's quickly expanding space industry. In 2021, he started writing for SpaceXMania. He also contributes to publications including SpaceNews, IEEE Spectrum, National Geographic, Sky & Telescope, and New Scientist. When Alex was a small child, he first experienced the space bug after seeing Voyager photographs of alien planets in our solar system. When not in space, Alex likes to go trail jogging in the Finnish countryside.

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