On June 18, San Francisco-based startup Orbit Fab completed a critical test of its technology on the International Space Station (ISS). It’s the first private company to successfully supply the International Space Station with water.
Last fall, Orbit Fab announced their plans for its water transfer experiment. The ISS National Laboratory provided vital support and insight.
The refueling took several days to complete and was done in microgravity with equipment and processes developed by Orbit Fab. Since water is one of the most inert propellants used in spaceflight thrusters, it was an ideal candidate for the June experiment.
Still, the Orbit Fab-designed method could expand to other conventional propellants. This is why Orbit Fab also plans to use these methods and processes to develop tankers for refueling satellites.
This orbital fuel supply startup was founded in 2018 and has already made an outstanding impact on the space technology business. Its experiment called Furphy demonstrated the ability to transfer water between two satellite testbeds.
Following the completion of the initial experiment, Orbit Fab transferred the water into the station’s own supply. This marked the first time that a private payload supplied the station with water using these methods.
Orbit Fab’s plan to set new standards for satellite refueling interfaces to be used in orbital hardware represents the next step in the standardization of reusable satellites. The less disposable hardware model used today might become obsolete.
This sort of success could unlock the commercial potential of space technology for other startups and small businesses. Any capable startup could find possible pain points and then offer innovative solutions to improve the space business, leading to increased cost and resource efficiencies.
Orbit Fab’s taking part in this experiment has broad implications for private businesses and startups all over the world. This startup has designed, developed, and successfully applied a functional water supply system for preexisting, ISS-made space infrastructure.
With their space tech success story, Orbit Fab has proven that NASA isn’t the only institution with the expertise and the flexibility to dabble in the space business.