US company plans: space filling station for satellites

Status: 07.09.2021 3:57 p.m.

Many satellites turn into space junk – not because they are defective, but because they run out of fuel. US companies now want to remedy the situation – in the form of a gas station in space.

By Arthur Landwehr, ARD-Studio Washington

The first gas station in space is scheduled to open at the end of 2022. The two Washington armaments companies Northrop Grumman and Lockheed Martin are jointly investing in a Californian start-up, as the “Wall Street Journal” reports exclusively. It’s about thousands of satellites that will become space junk after a few years because they run out of fuel to navigate them.

The technology already exists

The two companies are leaders in space technology. Both have developed spacecraft that can be used to navigate satellites: either to relocate them or to repair them with robots. Refueling would be a useful service that could dramatically extend the lifespan of satellites.

Orbit-Fab from San Francisco is the first to offer a valve that can be used to pump fuel from a tanker into a satellite in space. Tests in space seem to have gone so well in June that two fuel shuttles can be sent on their way as early as next year.

A step towards the “living space industry”

“If we want a vibrant space industry, we have to be able to bring energy there,” says Orbit Fabs boss Jeremy Schiel. And Lockheed Martin already has enough customers who want exactly that: to be able to use their expensive investments longer in space.

Gas station in space

Arthur Landwehr, ARD Washington, September 7th, 2021 3:42 pm

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