The San Francisco-based start-up agreed with Spaceflight, the rideshare and mission provider, to launch its first operational fuel depot, dubbed Tanker 001 Tenzing, into space next year.
Tanker 001 Tenzing will provide fuel for the fast growing in-orbit servicing industry, Orbit Fab said, and is expected to launch aboard a SpaceX Falcon 9 no earlier than in June 2021. Tanker 001 Tenzing will store propellant in sun synchronous orbit, where it will be available to satellite servicing vehicles or other spacecraft that need to replenish fuel supplies.
Orbit Fab’s fuel depots are designed to support more sustainable spacecraft through the use of a technology that transfers propellant “with a self-driving satellite kit for docking and attachment of two spacecraft without the need for complex robotic arms”.
Orbit Fab plans to provide a ubiquitous supply of satellite propellant in Earth orbit, expanding the operational potential of new and existing space assets, the company says. “In the future, valuable satellites will no longer be sent to the graveyard when they run out of fuel.”