Wednesday, September 05, 2018

Another High Flying Silicon Valley NewSpace Entrepreneur Scores Funding

          By Brian Orlotti

Silicon Valley CA based Orbit Fab, a firm founded and run by Canadian expat engineer Daniel Faber, has announced that it has raised enough funding to demonstrate the technology needed for orbiting fuel tanks that could be used by future satellite servicing systems.

Over time the space economy will transition away from the need to carry everything with you towards the establishment of resupply depots storing resources shipped from Earth independently and finally to the manufacturing of "in-situ" resources in orbiting factories. Orbit Fab intends to focus on revenue-generating opportunities in phase 1 of this expansion. Graphic c/o OrbitFab.

As outlined in the August 28th, 2018 Space News Post, "Startup plans “gas stations” for satellite servicing," Faber said that his company seeks to differentiate itself from satellite servicing companies by simply providing fuel tanks, rather than vehicles.

Instead, Orbit Fab intends to partner with satellite servicing companies to enable their operations.

Faber also argued that satellite servicing firms already take on considerable risk building their spacecraft and setting up operations, so Orbit Fab can separately take on the risk of building fuel depots.

Faber, an early member of the Toronto ON based Canadian Space Commerce Association (CSCA), was also previously CEO of  San Jose CA based asteroid mining-firm Deep Space Industries. And there is a possible link between his previous and current businesses. Faber says that satellite servicing and propellant depots could create demand for future asteroid-derived resources, although his company wouldn’t rely on such resources in its business plan.

Orbit Fab is being funded by Boston MA based Bolt Innovation Group LLC, a venture capital firm that has financed tech firms such as AirBnB, Solidworks, Desktop Metal and Isilon Systems.

Faber declined to reveal how much his company raised in this round other than to say it’s sufficient to cover the first launch. Bolt’s website, however, states that it provides up to $1Mln US ($1.31Mln CDN) in pre-seed and seed funding.

The company’s first launch, scheduled for launch next year, will be a low Earth orbit test of its technology. Although Orbit Fab has provided no specifics, an image released by the company showed one concept where 10 cubesat-sized tanks are attached to a central structure, which is docked to a satellite servicing vehicle.

Orbit Fab’s first mission will be a collaboration with NASA, with the space agency providing in-kind support. Faber said additional details will be revealed in the next few weeks.

Although there is a risk of Orbit Fab’s fuel depots getting to market ahead of satellite servicing vehicles, Faber says the company needs to proceed now in order to build confidence with satellite servicing firms and their customers.

Although the risks in Orbit Fab’s venture are significant, the potential gains are as well. Such orbital infrastructure would not only derive significant revenue by itself, but also (literally) fuel further growth of the commercial space indistry.

This blog wishes Faber and Orbit Fab the best of luck.
Brian Orlotti.

Brian Orlotti is a network operator at the Ontario Research and Innovation Optical Network (ORION), a not-for-profit network service provider to the education and research sectors.

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