SAN FRANCISCO – On-orbit refueling startup Orbit Fab and in-space servicing specialist ClearSpace announced a multifaceted partnership Jan. 24.
Initially, the companies will work together to pair an Orbit Fab fuel depot with a ClearSpace shuttle.
“Customers can buy fuel from Orbit Fab and have it delivered by our partners like ClearSpace,” Daniel Faber, Orbit Fab founded founder and CEO, told SpaceNews.
Over the long term, Orbit Fab and ClearSpace executives see additional opportunities to work together on mission extension, transportation and other mobility and logistics services.
“Our initial goal is to put our Orbit Fab and ClearSpace hardware together, put it through its paces, and get that platform into orbit in the next two years,” Faber said.
Orbit Fab has not ruled out the possibility of building its own fuel shuttles. The company is taking a “collaborative and open approach to building fuel shuttles, systems and solutions to fuel and refuel the bustling space economy,” Faber said.
After working with ClearSpace on a U.K.-funded active debris removal (ADR) mission, Orbit Fab and ClearSpace executives realized the companies could rapidly build a refueling service that “leverages what ClearSpace is doing and means Orbit Fab can move faster,” Faber said.
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The partnership with Orbit Fab extends ClearSpace’s presence geographically. Established in Switzerland, ClearSpace has operations in the U.K. and U.S.
“We’re in very complementary situations with Orbit Fab having its foundations here in the U.S. and ClearSpace having its foundations in Europe and in the U.K.,” said Tim Maclay, ClearSpace chief strategy officer and U.S. general manager.
In addition, “we see Orbit Fab as being in an adjacent market and developing a very complementary set of services to ours,” Maclay said.
Orbit Fab’s expertise is in fuel transfer. The company’s RAFTI (Rapidly Attachable Fluid Transfer Interface) refueling valve and GRIP robotic docking devices are being integrated on partner spacecraft.
ClearSpace has developed vision system and rendezvous and proximity operation capabilities.
ClearSpace won a European Space Agency contract to remove a Vespa payload adapter from orbit. Under a U.K. Space Agency contract, ClearSpace is designing a mission to capture two inactive U.K. satellites.
Orbit Fab, meanwhile, won a contract to provide hydrazine for the U.S. Space Force Tetra-5 spacecraft. The ClearSpace satellite for the U.K. ADR mission includes Orbit Fab’s RAFTI.
“We’re seeing a tremendous amount of interest in Europe, the U.K. and the U.S. in mission extension, refueling and transport,” Maclay said. “Services having to do with mobility and logistics are really coming to the forefront.”
Luc Piguet, ClearSpace co-founder and CEO, called Orbit Fab “the clear leader in satellite refueling.”
“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,” Piquet added in a statement.
“ClearSpace is developing key technologies that will unlock opportunities for last-mile fuel delivery in both GEO and LEO,” Faber said in a statement. “We’re delighted to see our collaboration with ClearSpace push the boundaries of what is possible today.”