The firms announced on January 11 that the Astroscale U.S., a supplier of on-orbit solutions to prolong the lifespan of satellites, has inked an agreement to employ Orbit Fab’s in-space refueling tankers. Orbit Fab, a firm that provides “gas stations in space,” will refill Astroscale’s LEXI (Life Extension In-Orbit), geostationary satellite servicing vehicle.

Orbit Fab has agreed to deliver up to 1,000 kg of Xenon propulsion to refuel Astroscale’s LEXI spacecraft, the initial of which is scheduled to launch in 2026.  The arrangement is crucial, according to Ron Lopez, managing director (MD) and president of Astroscale U.S., since the capability to refuel in orbit is going to allow LEXI vehicles to serve more clients for longer periods without running out of fuel.

In a video chat with reporters on January 11, Lopez said that the ability to prolong the lifespan of satellites utilizing vehicles such as LEXI and the capacity to refuel such maintenance vehicles “make orbital activities more viable.” Astroscale, based in Japan with an affiliate in the United States, joined the satellite service industry in 2020 after purchasing Effective Space Solutions, which is satellite life-extension and servicing firm, based in Israeli that developed the Space Drone vehicle.

According to Lopez, the company developed LEXI using ESS intellectual property and is now integrating more advanced capabilities such as four robotic arms. Astroscale’s factory in Israel is developing the sensors, and the vehicle is going to be constructed in the United States.

Attitude control and Station keeping, inclination correction, momentum management, geostationary orbit migration, and retirement to the graveyard orbit are among the capabilities LEXI will deliver, according to Lopez. The cooperation with Astroscale, according to Orbit Fab CEO Daniel Faber, is a blueprint for how the in-space servicing firms may collaborate to expand the space economy. “We can monetize a proportion of our deals before we deliver to our customers,” he explained, “enabling us to quickly expand our network of shuttles and tankers.”

Orbit Fab, a firm launched in 2018, created the RAFTI (Rapidly Attachable Fluid Transfer Interface) refueling port. Government and private operators can use the port to render their satellites compliant with Orbit Fab’s refueling tankers.

Last year, the business launched its initial propellant-storage tanker into low Earth orbit, and it expects to launch its second tanker into geostationary orbit (GEO) on the SpaceX Falcon 9 lunar lander flight in late 2022 or beginning of 2023. Orbit Fab’s first two LEO fuel shuttles are scheduled to launch in 2023. “Our architecture calls for large fuel tankers and fuel shuttles to transport fuel between the operational spacecraft and tankers,” Faber explained.

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