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Space taxi firm to work with in-orbit refueller

An Australian business that is set to offer a taxi-style service in space is to collaborate with a US company that can refuel spacecraft in orbit.

The partnership between local firm Space Machines Company (SMC) and Orbit Fab comes with both set to trial their services for the first time next year.

The deal will see QR Code-like docking markers attached to both firm’s spacecraft so they can conduct “rendezvous and proximity operations manoeuvres” to test their respective innovations.

SMC hopes its upcoming Optimus vehicle will be able to physically move spacecraft in orbit, operating like roadside assistance among the stars.


Last year, Rajat Kulshrestha, SMC’s CEO, appeared on the Space Connect Podcast to explain how his technology would work. You can listen to the episode above.

Both SMC’s Optimus vehicle and Orbit Fab’s equivalent will launch next year aboard SpaceX Transporter rideshares.

“This collaboration represents a significant milestone in the advancement of in-space servicing technologies,” said Kulshrestha.


“It is the first purely commercial partnership of its kind and will serve as a pioneering example of in-space validation of these groundbreaking technologies.”

SMC said the collaboration would also improve space sustainability by reducing debris and creating an “on-orbit circular economy”.

“By partnering to undertake a suite of safe, secure, and sustainable proximity operations, Orbit Fab and Space Machines Company will play a pivotal role in defining this developing commercial technology to unlock on-orbit refuelling, servicing, repair, and de-orbit innovation for the global space sector,” it said.

The deal will see the installation of Orbit Fab’s “space fiducial alignment markers” on SMC’s Optimus.

“These markers will act like QR Codes in space, allowing Space Machines Company to work collaboratively with an approaching vehicle by using the markers to provide valuable position and orientation data, ensuring safe and reliable on-orbit operations,” said SMC.

It added the markers are designed to demonstrate “Orbit Fab’s ability to achieve safe navigation for the refuelling of spacecraft in-orbit”.

Adam Thorn

Adam Thorn

Adam is a journalist who has worked for more than 40 prestigious media brands in the UK and Australia. Since 2005, his varied career has included stints as a reporter, copy editor, feature writer and editor for publications as diverse as Fleet Street newspaper The Sunday Times, fashion bible Jones, media and marketing website Mumbrella as well as lifestyle magazines such as GQ, Woman’s Weekly, Men’s Health and Loaded. He joined Momentum Media in early 2020 and currently writes for Australian Aviation and World of Aviation.

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