By ARIE EGOZI
Tel Aviv: Gas stations for satellites in space. Orbit Fab, the Gas Stations in Space refuelling service provider and Astroscale US Inc., the US subsidiary of Astroscale Holdings Inc. announced a commercial agreement to refuel Astroscale’s Life Extension In-Orbit (LEXI) Servicer in geostationary orbit (GEO). LEXI is the first satellite designed to be refuelled.
Under the terms of this initial agreement, Orbit Fab’s GEO fuel shuttle will resupply Astroscale’s fleet of LEXI Servicers with up to 1,000 kilograms of Xenon propellant. With this purchase, Astroscale has greatly expanded LEXI’s scope and flexibility to perform on-orbit servicing missions — a benefit for every customer.
“This agreement represents a transformational moment for space sustainability and the on-orbit servicing market,” said Ron Lopez, Astroscale US President & Managing Director. “Astroscale and Orbit Fab are strengthening the value proposition for GEO life extension customers, driving new business models between on-orbit servicing companies in the space ecosystem and making orbital operations more sustainable.”
Astroscale’s LEXI spacecraft is slated to launch to GEO by 2026, where it will perform life extension services for commercial operators, the US government and partner governments around the world. LEXI’s key services for customers include station keeping and attitude control, momentum management, inclination correction, GEO relocation and retirement to graveyard orbit. Astroscale US is working with Orbit Fab to integrate its Rapidly Attachable Fluid Transfer Interface, or RAFTI, into the LEXI Servicer to provide refuelling capability alongside the company’s ongoing work to develop LEXI’s rendezvous and docking payload technology.
“This is a historic moment for the space industry, showing the clear and immediate need for on-orbit fuelling,” Orbit Fab CEO Daniel Faber said. “We have partnered with Astroscale to facilitate the growth of the emerging satellite servicing sector by showing clear demand for satellite servicing and the refuelling of those servicing assets. This take-or-pay contract is the first of its kind for the space industry. We can monetize a portion of our contracts before we make delivery to our customers, allowing us to quickly build out our network of tankers and shuttles. This is our commitment to Astroscale that we will deliver the fuel for a fixed price, and their commitment to buy that fuel.”
Orbit Fab expects to deploy dozens of fuel tankers and shuttles in the next 5 to 10 years, positioning them in proximity to customer satellite constellations in low Earth orbit (LEO), GEO and Cis-Lunar space. Astroscale and Orbit Fab are exploring additional opportunities to expand the on-orbit servicing market, including transferring fuel from tankers directly to operational satellites. Orbit Fab’s first two fuel shuttles will be commissioned in LEO in 2023.
According to Arie Halsband, CEO of Astroscale in Israel, an entrepreneur and one of the pioneers of the space industry in Israel, the innovative technology of satellite orbit service will enable a revolution in the conservative way in which satellite fleets have hitherto been managed. The agreement makes it possible to sever the link between the size of the satellite at launch and the amount of fuel it can use over its lifetime, so that a smaller satellite can provide much more life-extension services in orbit, and to heavier satellites.