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Starfish Space and Benchmark to Demonstrate On-Orbit Refueling and Docking 

By Rachel Jewett | May 19, 2021

      The Orbit Fab gas station in space tanker, powered by the Benchmark Halcyon thruster. Photo: Orbit Fab, Benchmark Space Systems

      Starfish Space and Benchmark Space Systems have reached an agreement to test on-orbit refuelling and docking capabilities during the Orbit Fab Tanker 1 mission that launches next month. This is part of an agreement between the companies announced Tuesday to collaborate on on-orbit servicing technologies. 

      Starfish Space is a satellite servicing company, and Benchmark provides in-space mobility systems and services. Starfish is integrating and testing its CEPHALOPOD software which performs Rendezvous, Proximity Operations and Docking (RPOD), with Benchmark’s hydrogen peroxide-fueled Halcyon thruster. This Benchmark thruster is the primary propulsion system for Orbit Fab’s fuel depot spacecraft, which it calls a “gas station in space.” Orbit Fab’s spacecraft is built by Astro Digital. 

      This Orbit Fab mission will establish flight heritage for both the CEPHALOPOD software and the Halcyon thruster. The mission is set to launch on a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket next month. 

      “This collaboration between Benchmark Space Systems and Starfish Space is all about leveraging our complementary strengths to drive toward precision on-orbit maneuvers that open the door to exciting new possibilities for the emerging space economy,” said Ryan McDevitt, Benchmark Space Systems CEO. “These in-space maneuvers and simulated refueling docking demonstrations with Orbit Fab will mark Benchmark’s flight heritage, advancement toward our RPO chipset offerings, and the pivotal role we’re playing in providing spacecraft control authority and extending missions in space.”