Orbit Fab Becomes the First Private Company to Supply the International Space Station with Water

[San Francisco, 18 June 2019] Within a year of securing venture funding, Orbit Fab has launched their hardware twice to the International Space Station (ISS) and supplied the station with water. Following the success of the multi-day microgravity refueling demonstration, Kenneth Shields, COO of the ISS U.S. National Laboratory, said in a statement, “With their recent successful completion of in-orbit water transfer operations aboard the space station, Orbit Fab became the first private company to supply the ISS with water using its own proprietary refueling equipment and processes. This concept of operations was not previously conceived of in the original design of the ISS, thus demonstrating NASA’s flexibility and desire to accommodate private sector clients who are utilizing the ISS U.S. National Laboratory as a steppingstone to an industrialized Low Earth Orbit.”

Orbit Fab was awarded a contract with the ISS U. S. National Lab to test the key systems of their tankers in microgravity that include pumps, valves, and plumbing. Their in-space demonstration analyzed the effects of residual momentum and slosh in the tanks with various levels of propellant. “The Furphy mission has allowed us to test the viability of refueling satellites in orbit”, said Jeremy Schiel, Cofounder, and CMO of Orbit Fab, “without the ISS National Lab, our company wouldn’t have been able to progress so rapidly”. Data gathered on both residual momentum and transferring of propellant between the two test-beds is critical for the development of their Generation-1 tanker.

Water was used for this propellant transfer demonstration as it is one of the most inert and easy to handle propellants available. Several companies offer satellite thrusters that use water as propellant, among them is Cofounder Daniel Faber’s former company, Deep Space Industries, which was recently acquired by Bradford Space. Orbit Fab plans on offering a variety of storable propellants on orbit that include Water, Xenon, Green Monopropellants, Hydrazine, NTO, and Hydrogen Peroxide.

Following successful testing of tanks, valves, plumbing and coupling technologies, Orbit Fab’s tanker test-bed was used to supply the ISS water tanks.

Following successful testing of tanks, valves, plumbing and coupling technologies, Orbit Fab’s tanker test-bed was used to supply the ISS water tanks.

In order to enable reusable satellites, Orbit Fab has worked with companies across the industry to build a standard refueling interface. From inputs provided by satellite constellations and servicing vehicles to integrators and thruster providers, Orbit Fab has developed and tested the Rapidly Attachable Fuel Transfer Interface known as RAFTI. The RAFTI fueling port can replace the fill and drain valves on a spacecraft, allowing for both the initial fueling on the ground and the option to refuel in orbit. The RAFTI fueling port is now commercially available, with the first delivery to a customer schedule for later this month.

Orbit Fab is ushering in an age of reusable satellites. While the world has become comfortable with reusable rockets, satellites are still considered disposable. Orbit Fab is fundamentally changing that paradigm.

About ISS U. S. National Lab:

About the International Space Station (ISS) U.S. National Laboratory:

In 2005, Congress designated the U.S. portion of the ISS as the nation’s newest national laboratory to optimize its use for improving quality of life on Earth, promoting collaboration among diverse users, and advancing science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) education. This unique laboratory environment is available for use by non-NASA U.S. government agencies, academic institutions, and the private sector. The ISS National Lab manages access to the permanent microgravity research environment, a powerful vantage point in low Earth orbit, and the extreme and varied conditions of space.

About Orbit Fab:

Orbit Fab was founded in 2018. It is a venture-backed startup with a vision of a bustling in-space market for products and services that supports both existing space businesses (communications and Earth observation) and new industries like space tourism, manufacturing and mining. The first step is achieving ubiquitous availability of satellite propellant in Earth Orbit, expanding the operational potential of new and existing space assets and providing unprecedented business model flexibility for satellite owners. The future for satellites is no longer restricted to the fuel they are launched with. It is about getting the fuel and other materials they need, where and when they need it, to enable business models never before thought possible.

Orbit Fab’s first propellant transfer between the two satellite refueling test-beds.

Orbit Fab’s first propellant transfer between the two satellite refueling test-beds.

Orbit Fab’s satellite refueling equipment operating in microgravity, supplying water to the ISS.

Orbit Fab’s satellite refueling equipment operating in microgravity, supplying water to the ISS.