Orbit Fab and SCOUT collaborate to host first commercial inspection payload for space situational awareness on fuel tanker launching in 2021
(12 January 2021 - Orbit Fab) Orbit Fab and SCOUT have announced the world’s first dedicated commercial in-space situational awareness mission.
SCOUT will launch a SCOUT-Vision payload on Orbit Fab’s Tanker-001 Tenzing fuel depot, scheduled to ride to orbit aboard a Spaceflight Inc. Sherpaorbital transfer vehicle (OTV) on an upcoming SpaceX Falcon 9 mission later this year.
The hosted payload is a demonstration mission of SCOUT’s in-orbit inspection capability and the collaboration provides tangible evidence of Orbit Fab and SCOUT’s alignment and shared commitment to the satellite servicing ecosystem.
Orbit Fab's Tanker-001 Tenzing (courtesy: Orbit Fab)
“Our collaboration with SCOUT will advance a sustainable in-orbit environment for next-generation commerce and protection of the space domain that both our companies envision,” said Daniel Faber, CEO of Orbit Fab. “The Orbit Fab in-orbit propellant supply chain will be essential for SCOUT’s small spacecraft that extend satellite lifetimes, prevent orbital debris, and keep space secure through data gathered from in-orbit inspections.”
Orbit Fab previously announced that it had signed an agreement with Spaceflight Inc. to launch its first operational fuel depot to orbit in 2021. Tanker-001 Tenzing will store propellant in Sun Synchronous Orbit (SSO), where it will be available to satellite servicing vehicles or other spacecraft that need to replenish fuel supplies.
The SCOUT-Vision sensor suite is a multi-purpose observational payload that enables passive space situational awareness in a small form-factor. As a hosted payload on Tanker-001 Tenzing, it will be the first commercial demonstration of close-range (1-2 km) in-orbit inspection.
“Orbit Fab’s mission is vital to making our business sustainable, and our development roadmap includes use of the Gas Stations in Space refueling technologies,” said Eric Ingram, CEO of SCOUT. “This collaboration allows us to more quickly get SCOUT-Vision to market and keeps us on track to launch our first dedicated inspection satellite by late 2023.”
Once on orbit, SCOUT-Vision will be available to inspect spacecraft in LEO SSO with operator consent, and SCOUT has already initiated conversations with a number of organizations that wish to access images of their spacecraft.
SCOUT’s future satellite inspection spacecraft will include the Orbit Fab Rapidly Attachable Fluid Transfer Interface (RAFTI), which provides cost effective, reliable satellite fill and drain functions both on the ground and in space. SCOUT also plans to purchase propellant from Orbit Fab in orbit for long term sustainability.
Orbit Fab’s fuel depots are designed to sustain a broad range of spacecraft with a Self-Driving Satellite docking kit, known as SPARK, for guiding spacecraft together for docking without the need for complex robotic arms. Its Satellite Gas Cap fluid transfer interface, RAFTI, has been adopted by multiple spacecraft manufacturers to extend the life of their satellites. SPARK and RAFTI were developed in cooperation with 50 companies and organizations and are expected to become the industry’s common cooperative docking and refueling interfaces.
Last month, Orbit Fab announced that it received funding from Munich Re Ventures, the strategic corporate venture capital arm of Munich Re Group, one of the world’s leading providers of reinsurance, primary insurance, and insurance-related risk solutions.The investment is helping Orbit Fab achieve its vision of an in-orbit ecosystem for satellite servicing, national security, and space commercialization.
SCOUT is a space company based in Alexandria, Virginia, which develops small, inexpensive satellites to perform in-space inspections of large, expensive satellites. Over half of satellite failures on orbit have untraceable causes, and the company’s SCOUT-Sats will provide close-up inspection data to satellite manufacturers, satellite operators, and insurers to better assess and mitigate anomalies. SCOUT has received investment from CIT GAP, and nondilutive R&D funding for SCOUT-Vision. The company is a MassChallenge 2020 Gold Winner, and an alumnus of its first Space Commercialization Track.
About Orbit Fab
Orbit Fab is a venture-backed startup, established in 2018 in San Francisco, which plans to provide a ubiquitous supply of satellite propellant in Earth Orbit, expanding the operational potential of new and existing space assets. In the future, valuable satellites will no longer be sent to the graveyard orbit when they run out of fuel. Orbit Fab’s goal is to be an important part of the infrastructure that provides fuel and other materials, when and where they are needed, providing unprecedented business model flexibility to satellite operators and increasing sustainability of space assets.