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ClearSpace and Orbit Fab to create in-space refueling service

Posted 25 January 2024

ClearSpace and Orbit Fab have announced a multifaceted strategic partnership to advance in-space refueling and servicing capabilities that will revolutionise space operations and serve as a foundation for a vibrant and sustainable space economy.



Above: Artistic impression of the ClearSpace Servicer using an Orbit Fab payload to refuel a client satellite.
© ClearSpace / Orbit-Fab


Under the memorandum of understanding (MoU), Orbit Fab and ClearSpace will develop key enabling technologies, building on their initial collaborative work that began several years ago. The two companies will leverage their complementary capabilities and missions to accelerate the availability of propellants in space by creating a refueling service architecture pairing an Orbit Fab fuel depot with a ClearSpace shuttle.

Market demand for in-orbit refueling reflects the need for unconstrained in-space mobility and the value of extending the operational utility of critical space assets. The US Space Force considers Space Mobility and Logistics (SML) as one of its core competencies, and in-orbit refueling directly addresses the challenge of replenishing spacecraft consumables. Furthermore, refueling will become a key competitive advantage for operators of commercial satellites and service vehicles.

Orbit Fab is already supporting ClearSpace with the design of its CLEAR mission for active debris removal, funded by the UK Space Agency, to enable the service vehicle to be refueled and reused.

The development of ClearSpace’s refueling shuttle adds to the growing ecosystem of service providers, building on the standards and vision established by Orbit Fab’s foundational work in fuel depot development and fuel transfer interfaces. Its RAFTI™ (Rapidly Attachable Fluid Transfer Interface) refueling ports and its GRIP™ robotic docking devices are already being integrated aboard a fast-growing number of vehicles, with RAFTI™ slated for integration on more than a dozen spacecraft, and GRIP™ being baselined on another five.

By combining Orbit Fab’s fuel transfer expertise with ClearSpace’s vision system and RPO capabilities, ClearSpace expands its in-orbit service portfolio and Orbit Fab extends the reach of its fuel distribution services, resulting in the creation of a competitive, commercial marketplace for turn-key, in-orbit refueling services.

Luc Piguet, ClearSpace Co-Founder and CEO, sad: “Orbit Fab is the clear leader in satellite refueling, and ClearSpace is excited to partner with them as we explore possibilities for advancing new servicing and refueling capabilities that will ultimately benefit everyone participating in the space economy and beyond.
 
“ClearSpace and Orbit Fab are seeing growing demand in the US, UK and around the world for service vehicles and refueling as government and commercial operators seek to boost the ROI of their missions and extend operations.”

Daniel Faber, Orbit Fab Founder and CEO, said: “ClearSpace is developing key technologies that will unlock opportunities for last-mile fuel delivery in both GEO and LEO, and we’re delighted to see our collaboration with ClearSpace push the boundaries of what is possible today.

“Our RAFTI and GRIP refueling systems are the interfaces of choice for secure, sustainable in-space refueling operations, and our work with ClearSpace, both in the US and in the UK, is revolutionizing the capabilities that make extended satellite operations a reality.”




 

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