Lockheed Martin and Northrop Grumman, two defense industry giants, have invested in Orbit Fab, which is a San Francisco-centered startup that aims to build gas stations in orbit to refuel satellites and extend their lives; the firms revealed. Orbit Fab wants to develop a fleet of tankers and fuel shuttles that can connect with aged satellites and distribute fuel in low earth orbit (LEO), geosynchronous orbit, and the cislunar space. If successful, Orbit Fab’s innovations will allow clients to keep satellites operational for longer periods while deferring the cost of launching a new vehicle into the space.
Orbit Fab received more than $10 million in funding from vendors, including Lockheed Martin and Northrop Grumman, bringing the company’s total capital to $17 million. Orbit Fab co-founder Jeremy Schiel remarked, “Lockheed Martin and Northrop Grumman both see clear potential in on-orbit refueling to establish a lively in-space economy.” “It’s fantastic to see two industry heavyweights in aerospace and defense embrace this technology. Their funding will help us expand the use of the on-orbit refueling services and support the developing satellite servicing industry.”
Orbit Fab has so far created a number of items aimed at kicking off the business of recharging vehicles in space. In June, the company launched its first on-orbit fuel storage into sun-synchronous orbit. Tenzing is the name of the vehicle, which is loaded with high-test peroxide. The business also created a rapidly Attachable Fluid Transfer Interface (RAFTI), a fueling port that can connect two spacecraft.
“With technology advancing at such a fast pace and introducing new market entrants, we’re looking forward to partnering with rising technology businesses like Orbit Fab to drive innovation in new possibilities for the customers,” Northrop’s vice president of business strategy, David Jacobs, stated in a statement. Orbit Fab’s in-orbit refueling technology, according to Chris Moran, Lockheed Martin Ventures director “may assist our customers in confronting new and developing challenges.”
Moran mentioned future space technology as a continuing topic of interest for Lockheed Martin in an August interview with the Defense News, indicating that the company’s venture arm will pursue fresh investments in space firms.
He stated, “We’ve passed the very first wave of space, the very first wave of AI, and the very first wave of autonomy.” “Now we’ll start to see a separation between the losers and winners, as well as new, complementary technologies emerging from them. We’ll keep a careful eye on what’s going on there and, maybe, develop some new and unique capabilities in that area.”
In the past, Lockheed Martin Ventures has been able to make a number of investments in space technologies, notably in 2019 to Rocket Labs and ABL Space Systems. They develop medium and small launch vehicles.