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This article was published on January 24, 2024

A new in-orbit refuelling service for spacecraft is under development

The project integrates tech from US leader Orbit Fab

A new in-orbit refuelling service for spacecraft is under development

Swiss startup ClearSpace has unveiled its latest project to make space exploration sustainable: an orbital refuelling service.

The company is collaborating with the US-based Orbit Fab on the mission. Under the plans, the duo will combine a ClearSpace shuttle with an Orbit Fab fuel depot.

The result would be a spacecraft that delivers fresh fuel to satellites. As a result, clients could extend the operations of active satellites and refuel unused ones that otherwise become space junk.

Naturally, both teammates on the project also stand to benefit. ClearSpace, which is best known for space debris removal, gets a diversified service portfolio, while Orbit Fab expands the reach of its fuel distribution services. But the companies emphasised that the mission will benefit everyone in the space economy — and beyond.

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“ClearSpace and Orbit Fab are seeing growing demand in the US, UK, and around the world for service vehicles and refuelling as government and commercial operators seek to boost the ROI of their missions and extend operations,” Luc Piguet, ClearSpace Co-Founder and CEO, said in a statement.

That demand is driven by the need for extended ranges of movement in space. The US Space Force, for instance, has made space mobility and logistics (SML) a core competency. In-orbit refuelling can both improve SML and provide satellite operators with a competitive advantage.

Orbit Fab is among the leaders of the emerging sector. The startup’s service combines refuelling points with robotic docking devices called GRIPs. With the ClearSpace shuttle, the US company could add another compelling option to the growing market.

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