On June18, Orbit Fab, a startup company announced that it had successfully accomplished its experimental tests called Furphyat ISS. The tests demonstrated that water could be transferred between satellite testbeds. The Chief Marketing Officer and co-founder of Orbit Fab, Jeremy Schiel confirmed that the Furphy mission enabled them to check the sustainability of satellite refueling in the orbit. Previously, the experiment was just to check the technology of propellant transfer in microgravity and its capacity to handle problems like sloshing.
The Chief Operating Officer of ISS, Ken Shields said that Orbit Fab, private company is the first to provide water to ISS with its own refueling process and equipments. He also said that it is a progress towards an industrialized low earth orbit. Although the experiment was conducted using water, but the company assured that other fuel propellants can be transferred using the same process. Propellants include hydrazine which is very common in spacecraft thrusters and xenon that is used in electro propulsion systems.
A part of this technology is RAFTI or Rapidly Attachable Fuel Transfer Interface; it is an interface to refuel spacecraft. RAFTI intends to replace current fill and drain valves of the refueling systems of satellite; this will enable the satellites to be filled before launch and refuel in the space. An unnamed customer is about to receive this RAFTI technology till the end of the month.
Orbit Fab is planning to install the technology in the space tankers in future satellites to enable their refueling. It is a huge progress for the company as no other refueling systems of satellites are discovered yet; and even satellites are not designed to be refueled in space. The company said that it was testing the technology to assure that the structure for refueling the satellites will be ready soon.