At a Glance
- Startup Orbit Fab received a $250,000 grant from the National Science Foundation program America's Seed Fund to test its satellite docking system.
- In December 2018, Orbit Fab used the ISS National Lab to successfully test its new tanker technology for refueling small satellites while in orbit.
- Orbital Sidekick was one of 20 companies to receive funding through AFVentures, a funding mechanism to promote collaboration between the Air Force and small businesses.
- In June 2018, Orbital Sidekick flew its hyperspectral sensor system for commercial Earth observation on the ISS, aiming to provide timely and cost-effective global monitoring capabilities.
Startup Orbit Fab Receives Government Grant to Develop Satellite Refueling Technology
A $250,000 grant was awarded to Orbit Fab from the National Science Foundation (NSF) program America’s Seed Fund and will be used to test the company’s satellite docking system.
This award comes after the successful test of Orbit Fab’s Furphy tanker on the International Space Station (ISS), which demonstrated the ability to transfer liquid between two small satellites. Furphy is a compact system for refueling satellites while in Earth’s orbit—thereby extending satellite operations. This new tanker technology has two patents pending and went from concept to flight onboard the ISS U.S. National Laboratory within one year. Based on Orbit Fab’s first successful mission, the company raised $3 million in venture capital in the first quarter of fiscal year 2020 prior to receiving this new NSF award.
Orbitfab is a San Francisco-based startup company that first flew their ISS National Lab research on SpaceX’s 16th commercial resupply services (CRS) mission in 2018.
Orbital Sidekick Among 20 Companies to Receive Funding
This past March, the Air Force announced AFVentures, a funding mechanism to promote Air Force collaboration with small businesses on its warfighter. Along with this initiative, the Air Force announced approximately $1 billion in contracts for small businesses, including San Francisco-based company Orbital Sidekick. The company flew its hyperspectral sensor system for commercial Earth observation on SpaceX CRS-15. The satellite-based hyperspectral imaging aims to provide timely, cost-effective, and noninvasive global monitoring capabilities.
Assistant Secretary of the Air Force of Acquisition Roper’s comments made during the 2020 Spark Collider and Pitch Bowl highlighted the necessity of supporting both small businesses and innovation to maintain competitive.
Half of the almost $1 billion is designated for “big bet” companies already selected through this funding mechanism, with Orbital Sidekick as one of the 20 companies named as a “big bet.”
AFVentures is a joint endeavor between an in-house incubator program from the Air Force and Air Force Acquisitions, along with the Small Business Innovation Research/Small Business Technology Transfer (SBIR/STTR) Program.