WASHINGTON — Orbit Fab, a startup developing in-space satellite refueling services, has raised $28.5 million to accelerate work on its first missions.
The Colorado-based company announced the Series A funding round April 17 led by 8090 Industries. Others participating in the round include Stride Capital, Industrious Ventures, Lockheed Martin Ventures, Tribe Capital, Good Growth Capital and Massive Capital Partners.
Orbit Fab will use the funding to accelerate work on its first missions to provide satellite refueling services. It will also ramp up production of its RAFTI port for spacecraft, which is designed to enable on-orbit refueling.
“This is going to let us accelerate the deployment of refueling systems,” Daniel Faber, chief executive of Orbit Fab, said in an interview. “This is what the Series A is about. We’ve seen demand. We have four launches booked, and we need to keep up with that.”
Orbit Fab announced in October that 8090 Industries had invested, but the company declined at the time to specify the size of the investment. Faber said that investment was part of this Series A round. 8090 Industries invests in “category-leading industrial giants of tomorrow” and is affiliated with the Ozmen family that founded Sierra Nevada Corporation and its space spinoff, Sierra Space.
“We’re excited about the experience they have with industrial companies, and that’s where we see Orbit Fab,” he said. “Their experience of building a company of the scale that we want to build here is super important to us.”
That view is shared by Orbit Fab’s investors. “The emerging space economy cannot grow without adequate refueling infrastructure. Orbit Fab is now executing on a compelling business model to provide mission critical refueling gasses in space,” said Steve Angel, chairman of industrial gas company Linde plc and an advisor at Industrious Ventures, in a statement.
Faber described the Series A as an “up round,” or one that increased the overall valuation of the company, which is now at just over $100 million.
In addition to the Series A funding, Orbit Fab has secured contracts with military organizations including the Defense Innovation Unit and SpaceWERX, the innovation arm of the Space Force, worth $21 million for three missions to demonstrate proximity operations and to refuel spacecraft. The first of those missions scheduled to launch in early 2024. Orbit Fab also has a contract with Astroscale to refuel its Life Extension In-Orbit (LEXI) servicing spacecraft in geostationary orbit.
Demand for refueling is primarily for hydrazine and xenon, the most common fuels for chemical and electric propulsion systems, respectively, Faber said. There is also some interest in non-toxic “green” propellants, particularly in Europe where hydrazine is being phased out.
To meet the growing demand, Orbit Fab has doubled its workforce to 60 employees in the last year, and plans to hire 25 more with the new funding. Most of those employees are in its Colorado headquarters, with a small office in the United Kingdom.
There is a growing interest in satellite refueling, which Faber likened to reusable launch. “If you’ve got a rocket company and your rockets aren’t reusable, you’re not in the game,” he said. “The same is going to become true for satellites. If you have a satellite and you can’t extend its mission or move in a dynamic way in orbit, you’re as good as gone.”
“Fundamentally, our business isn’t too complicated: we build fuel, we launch fuel, we sell fuel,” he said. “We want to become the industrial gas supplier in orbit. Orbit Fab is effectively the Linde of space.”