Aerospace & Defence

ClearSpace and Orbit Fab to create in-space refuelling service

20th February 2024
Paige West

ClearSpace and Orbit Fab recently announced a comprehensive strategic partnership aimed at enhancing in-space refuelling and servicing capabilities.

This collaboration is set to transform space operations and lay the groundwork for a robust and sustainable space economy.

Under the terms of the memorandum of understanding (MoU), Orbit Fab and ClearSpace will focus on the development of crucial technologies, building upon their initial joint efforts which commenced a few years ago. The partnership will utilise the strengths and objectives of both companies to expedite the provision of propellants in space by establishing a refuelling service architecture. This will involve pairing an Orbit Fab fuel depot with a ClearSpace shuttle.

The increasing market demand for in-orbit refuelling underscores the significance of unrestricted in-space mobility and the benefit of prolonging the life span of vital space assets. The US Space Force identifies Space Mobility and Logistics (SML) as a key area of expertise, with in-orbit refuelling addressing the challenge of replenishing spacecraft consumables. Moreover, refuelling is poised to become a crucial competitive edge for operators of commercial satellites and service vehicles.

Orbit Fab has been instrumental in supporting ClearSpace with the design of its CLEAR mission for active debris removal, funded by the UK Space Agency. This initiative will enable the service vehicle to be refuelled and reused.

The introduction of ClearSpace’s refuelling shuttle contributes to the expanding ecosystem of service providers. It builds on the standards and vision set by Orbit Fab through its pioneering work in fuel depot development and fuel transfer interfaces. Orbit Fab’s RAFTI (Rapidly Attachable Fluid Transfer Interface) refuelling ports and its GRIP robotic docking devices are being integrated into a rapidly increasing number of vehicles. RAFTI is expected to be integrated on more than a dozen spacecraft, and GRIP is being standardised on an additional five.

By merging Orbit Fab’s expertise in fuel transfer with ClearSpace’s vision system and RPO (Rendezvous and Proximity Operations) capabilities, ClearSpace is able to expand its in-orbit service offerings. Concurrently, Orbit Fab broadens the scope of its fuel distribution services. This collaboration fosters the establishment of a competitive, commercial marketplace for comprehensive, in-orbit refuelling services.

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

“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,” noted Daniel Faber, Orbit Fab Founder and CEO. “Our RAFTI and GRIP refuelling systems are the interfaces of choice for secure, sustainable in-space refuelling operations, and our work with ClearSpace, both in the US and in the UK, is revolutionising the capabilities that make extended satellite operations a reality.”

Product Spotlight

Upcoming Events

View all events
Latest global electronics news
© Copyright 2024 Electronic Specifier