Orbit Fab, a company developing in-space depots to refuel satellites, said this week its fuel interface has completed flight qualification and is ready to ship to customers, including the Space Force.

The Colorado-based firm’s Rapidly Attachable Fuel Transfer Interface, or RAFTI, is designed to be installed on satellites to allow them to receive propellant either in space or on the ground before launch.

For the last two years, Orbit Fab has been working to validate the port is ready to fly in the harsh space environment, conducting ground and in-orbit tests that show it can withstand extreme weather.

With that qualification completed, the company this week started shipping its first 12 RAFTI ports to customers who want to install them on their satellites. Eight of those are for the Space Force and the remaining four are for other customers, including Astroscale, which is developing spacecraft designed with refillable gas tanks.

The company expects to produce another dozen or so RAFTIs in the next month, and Orbit Fab Chief Commercial Officer Adam Harris said production should reach about 100 units this year. It‘s also crafting licensing agreements with other firms to allow them to produce the ports, making them more available in the marketplace.

“That allows it to be not just one company offering it, but multiple companies offering something,” he told C4ISRNET in a March 19 interview. “Then we can really enter this era that I think the Space Force wants – this transition to reusable, refuellable satellites.”

The Space Force plans to conduct satellite refueling demonstrations in the coming years that will help it determine what military benefit the capability offers. U.S. Space Command officials have called for all DOD spacecraft to be equipped with refueling ports by the end of the decade to enable key spacecraft — particularly those designed to maneuver and observe adversary activities in orbit — can move more freely without the fear of running out of propellant.

Multiple firms are developing refueling ports to provide options for the government, including Northrop Grumman’s Passive Refueling Module, which the Space Force recently approved for inclusion on DOD satellites.

Harris said Orbit Fab’s intent is to offer RAFTI whenever possible.

“Anytime the Space Force has a new satellite that they’re building, we’re making RAFTI available to them,” he said.

That includes a recent request for information the service released seeking space domain awareness satellites that feature options for refueling.

In the meantime, the company is working with the Space Force, Defense Innovation Unit and the Air Force Research Laboratory to support an upcoming refueling demonstration and help advance technology development efforts.

Orbit Fab’s fuel depot and its RAFTI port will both play a role in the demonstration, scheduled for 2026. The plan is for a spacecraft made by Impulse Space to host the fuel depot — essentially a gas station. The depot will then refuel an Astroscale-built servicing vehicle, which will then provide fuel to three satellites that are part of AFRL’s Tetra-5 mission.

Harris said Orbit Fab’s depot has moved through its major design reviews and will begin manufacturing the system and preparing for testing this year with the goal of having it ready for launch in 2025.

The company is also working with the Space Force’s Rapid Capabilities Office on a separate effort to advance refueling technology. That program will run through 2025, he said.

Courtney Albon is C4ISRNET’s space and emerging technology reporter. She has covered the U.S. military since 2012, with a focus on the Air Force and Space Force. She has reported on some of the Defense Department’s most significant acquisition, budget and policy challenges.

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