Sep 26, 2022

Orbit Fab Part of UK Team Making Debris Removal Operations Sustainable Through Refuelling

Orbit Fab Part of UK Team Making Debris Removal Operations Sustainable Through Refuelling

Orbit Fab, the Gas Stations in Space™ company, will support ClearSpace’s CLEAR mission to clean up the congested space environment

[Harwell, UK, 26 September, 2022] Orbit Fab jointly announced its partnership with ClearSpace, joining their £2.2 million contract awarded by the United Kingdom Space Agency (UKSA) to equip ClearSpace debris-removing satellites with refuelling capabilities. To refuel in orbit, ClearSpace will integrate Orbit Fab’s RAFTI™ refuelling valve in their Active Debris Removal (ADR) satellite design. Under the contract, ClearSpace will conduct this design phase of their CLEAR (Clearing the LEO Environment with Active Removal) mission. The mission advances key technology building blocks for the development of commercially viable space debris disposal services. The design phase will last until October 2023, and follows a successful feasibility study completed March 2022.

“Orbit Fab is pleased to be joining the ClearSpace consortium to provide on-orbit refuelling expertise for this pioneering sustainability mission. As a  leader of orbital refuelling in the US and now Europe, we look forward to working with ClearSpace and other partners in the future to support the development of this rapidly growing market,” says Manny Shar, Orbit Fab UK & Europe Managing Director.

Orbit Fab’s RAFTI™ fuelling port is a drop-in replacement for spacecraft fill-and-drain valves to enable refuelling in space. The company is building the in-space propellant supply chain consisting of depots and shuttles, which respectively store large amounts of propellant and deliver that propellant to their customers. Satellites equipped with RAFTI™ can use the valve to fuel on the ground prior to launch and are also able to access Orbit Fab’s refuelling service once in space. The RAFTI™ Service Valve (RSV) is trusted by the industry, having been baselined into the design of 4 United States government missions and over 100 commercial satellites and counting.

Within only a few months of establishing our UK presence, Orbit Fab is making concrete progress towards our vision for a sustainable, bustling in-space economy. On-orbit debris threatens satellites that provide vital services like the internet, transport systems, financial transactions, climate change monitoring, weather forecasting, and more. For more than 60 years, the industry has been operating without tow trucks for the growing number of defunct satellites, rocket parts, and other space junk. And until now, those tow trucks haven’t had refuellability in mind. Orbit Fab’s involvement in CLEAR is changing this.

The CLEAR mission will remove from orbit two derelict UK satellites which have been inactive for more than 10 years. These satellites could stay in orbit for a century before they naturally re-enter the atmosphere and are located in a very congested region of LEO, above 700 km altitude, endangering the space environment and the safety of space operations. By removing them, the UK is sending a strong message to the world regarding its commitment to address the space debris issue and lead by example in reducing orbital congestion.

UKSA is enabling UK companies to obtain the first-mover advantage in the emerging in-orbit services (IOS) market, which is forecast to reach $14.3 billion in cumulative revenue by 2031 according to a recent Northern Sky Research report. Debris removal is expected to be the fastest growing segment of IOS, due to the increased need for operators to protect spacecraft in increasingly congested orbits. By equipping space “tow trucks” and other service-offering satellites with refuelling capability, Orbit Fab can free up past maneuverability constraints and keep them cleaning up more space, for longer. The UK has also announced in June its Plan for Space Sustainability to demonstrate UK leadership in sustainable space, through the establishment of a new Space Sustainability Standard and a review of the regulatory framework. The second phase contract awarded to ClearSpace is a concrete step towards safe and sustainable space highlighting the UK’s commitment in this important area, and includes the requirement for refurbishment/refuelling as part of the mission.

Learn more from ClearSpace’s press release ->