Orbit Fab has a mission unlike any other. They see a thriving in-space market for products and services that support both existing space businesses (communications and Earth observation) and new industries like space tourism, manufacturing, and mining. To bring this vision to life, they plan to provide satellite propellant on orbit, or as they call it “Gas stations in space™”. As satellites go farther and the space economy grows, they are poised to deliver fuel that satellites need, where and when they need it. The first of their satellite tankers, Tanker-001 Tenzing, will fly its demonstration mission after launching on SXRS-5 (SpaceX’s Transporter-2).
This mission will test the tanks and fueling ports, and the process of loading up all the tankers. It will also test key elements of the rendezvous and docking system, and the thrusters to make sure the tankers can move up and down to the desired orbits. They are also teaming up with Scout, a service that inspects satellites. Right now, if something goes wrong with a satellite, it is difficult to get a photo to troubleshoot it. Scout offers this photo service and Orbit Fab’s mission will prove their business model as well. Orbit Fab’s offerings will be a boon to other satellite servicing companies too, which now number almost 50. These companies offer tow trucks in space jet packs to strap on to existing satellites, robotics services on orbit, and assembly in space. In the future watch they want to support, tourism, sports games in space, and much more.
For a big vision like this, Orbit Fab needed a trusted launch partner, and Spaceflight’s rideshare model is a perfect fit. “We need many launches so our customers can have confidence that fuel will be there, when they need it. Because Spaceflight handles so many launches, and sometimes a customer will drop off a launch because their spacecraft isn’t ready or for another reason, we can then slide into that spot,” says Orbit Fab CEO Daniel Faber. “We’ll keep our tankers at the ready, and will be able to fill empty slots on any of their upcoming launches, which brings down the cost for all.”
Orbit Fab has directly benefited from Spaceflight’s ability to move customers between launch vehicles. “We were originally scheduled on a launch that was delayed. Spaceflight was able to move us to another launch – their upcoming SXRS-5 mission. For a startup company, this is huge. Delays can be the death of a small company,” says Faber.
Besides the flexible schedule of launches, Spaceflight’s mission management kept Orbit Fab’s mission on track. Like many startups, Orbit Fab doesn’t have a big team, and could rely on Spaceflight to shepherd them through many launch milestones. “The more that we didn’t have to think about, the better,” stated Faber. “Spaceflight laid out the path and made it easy. We didn’t have to hunt for the boxes, we just had to check them.”
The launch of SXRS-5 is significant in many ways, but Orbit Fab’s payload really stands out. Once Tenzing is launched, Orbit Fab’s customers will be able to get fuel delivery in orbit for the first time ever. We can’t wait to see what this technology will make possible.