Orbit Fab, a startup preparing to establish fuel depots in space and a co-founder of the Space Commodities Exchange, announced an agreement on November 17, 2020, with Spaceflight Inc. to send its first microsatellite into orbit in 2021. From the article in Space News:
Under the agreement, Orbit Fab’s first operational fuel depot, Tanker-001 Tenzing, will launch aboard a SpaceX Falcon 9 as early as June 2021. Tanker-001 Tenzing will store a green propellant in sun synchronous orbit to refuel other spacecraft, Orbit Fab CEO Daniel Faber told SpaceNews.
“We’re building the world’s first operational satellite fuel depot,” Faber said. “This helps us solve the chicken and egg problem. No one is buying fuel in orbit because no one is selling it. We built an egg.”
Orbit Fab has not yet said what type of propellant it will offer or how much of it will be stored, but Faber calls Tanker-001 Tenzing a minimum viable product.
“We are putting inventory into orbit as a demonstration and a signal of our commitment to take different fuels to different orbits,” Faber said.
Orbit Fab worked with dozens of companies and government agencies to develop one of those technologies, the Rapidly Attachable Fluid Transfer Interface (RAFTI) also known as the Satellite Gas Cap.
“Orbit Fab’s RAFTI supports the Air Force and Space Force need for space combat logistics capabilities (On-Orbit Servicing), which enables space domain awareness,” Jeremy Schiel, Orbit Fab chief development officer, said in a statement. “Refueling is a requirement in the emerging Space Force architecture and for good reason. You don’t want to run out of fuel in the middle of a confrontation.”
Orbit Fab’s Tanker-001 Tenzing scheduled to launch on a Spaceflight’s Sherpa-FX orbital transfer vehicle will be housed in an Astro Digital satellite based on its Corvus-XL bus.