Fuel in orbit: the cost and use of fuel in space

Rising gas prices aren’t just high here. Literally and astronomically they are also very high up there.

In a new episode of the podcast “Are we there yet? host Grant Harrell spoke about rising high gas prices, gas in space and the introduction of in-orbit gas stations with Daniel Faber, CEO of Orbit Fab — a space supply company. In recent months, gas stations across the country have recorded some of the highest gas price records. And apparently the cost of gas doesn’t seem to change outside of Earth either.

“It’s quite expensive up there, and the biggest cost is to launch it and get it off the ground,” Faber said.

Faber said gases such as hydrazine and xenon are quite expensive. He also said there was the extra work of getting gas to space that increased expenses — not just the cost of the gas itself.

“Things are expensive, but launching is expensive, getting stuff into space is expensive. It just shows you how valuable it is to have that perspective from orbit that we do anything in the space. space,” Faber said.

The typical cost of a kilogram of gas for space is $1 million. But he said the cost can be reduced to just a few thousand per kilogram with the right infrastructure and gas caps in place.

Satellites use up all that expensive gas in space, helping to monitor exactly what’s happening in space and on Earth. These satellites need fuel to operate and orbit. However, Faber said “the goal is not to move your satellite at all.” But his company is trying to change that.

Gas stations in space are also a growing concept that is obviously coming to life. Faber said a station his company placed in space was about to celebrate its first anniversary.

“We’re almost there. We installed our first fuel depot almost 12 months ago now, so it’s been running for 12 months,” he said. “Our architecture involves fuel depots, just large fuel tanks and fuel shuttles, to move fuel from the depot to an operational satellite.”

Faber said that in a few years the first commercial delivery of fuel will be made into space.

Orbit Fab was one of the first companies to benefit from major investments. And there is no shortage of companies in this niche market, as there has been massive growth, Faber added.

“When we started our business there were eight or nine companies working on satellite service, now there are over 110 companies on this and that in just four years,” he said.

Faber said the future of gas in space hinges on infrastructure efficiency, fuel costs and a gas cap. He said the gas cap goes hand in hand with the creation and development of a successful industry.

“You won’t get lively space economy without fuel, and to do that you need a gas cap. So that’s where we started on day one,” Faber said.

Edward N. Arrington