Each year, the International Space Station Research and Development Conference (ISSRDC), hosted by the the Center for the Advancement of Science in Space (CASIS), NASA, and the American Astronautical Society, awards individuals who have pushed the boundaries of space-based research.
Daniel Faber, Orbit Fab CEO and co-founder, was awarded a 2020 ISSRDC award for innovation in technology development and demonstration. Due to the pandemic last year, all ISSRDC 2020 awards were presented during ISSRDC 2021.
Satellites in orbit could soon gain new life thanks to an innovative fuel tank technology developed by Orbit Fab that could allow spacecraft to be refueled midflight.
Orbit Fab’s new FlexTank™ technology uses collapsible fuel tanks that can be compressed during launch and filled in space. The innovative design enables spacecraft to take on fuel in orbit while saving on launch mass and volume. Faber’s team utilized the International Space Station (ISS) National Laboratory to demonstrate the technology, successfully filling the FlexTank™ in orbit while monitoring the ability of its internal baffling to moderate the dynamics of fluid transfer from an external tanker.
Testing on the ISS allowed Orbit Fab to validate its propellant feed system and paved the way for the company to launch its first tanker spacecraft in June 2021. This was an important step toward Orbit Fab’s goal of launching “gas stations in space,” eventually using FlexTank™ technology to allow spacecraft to refuel midflight. The capability could significantly extend the life and functionality of satellites, which are often discarded when initial fuel supplies are depleted. With the satellite servicing industry approaching an expected $3 billion annually by 2027, the ability to launch fuel could be worth tens of millions a year to servicing operators and their customers and enable new, economically viable markets in low Earth orbit.