Space In-Orbit Refueling Market Overview
The global space in-orbit refueling market is estimated to reach $1,090.8 million by 2032 at a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 103.85% during the forecast period 2022-2032 (CAGR:2026-2032). The major factor driving the market growth is expected to be the increase in demand for sustainable and reusable space systems.
With the increasing number of satellites going into space, the demand for satellite servicing has been rising. In the future years, refueling capabilities are expected to become a need rather than an option for satellite operators. Several market players have already started demonstrations and some have been successful. Commercial players are expected to extract the maximum benefit of the space in-orbit refueling technologies.
Market Lifecycle Stage
Space in-orbit refueling has been on the wishlist of satellite operators for decades, however, even though the concepts existed, no company was able to materialize the technology. However, in the past 5 years, multiple established players and startups have entered the market and are now full-fledged working on the refueling capabilities. Massive amounts of investments are pouring into the industry and multiple collaborations are happening in order to co-develop new technologies.
Over 15 years of research and development on satellite refueling technologies have bought us to a stage where key players are performing successful demonstrations of in-orbit refueling and services in-orbit. Additionally, commercial players with large constellation sizes or heavy communication satellites are expected to adopt the market first. Following this, government agencies like NASA and ESA are also stepping forward to develop technologies and fund startups in the in-orbit refueling industry.
Applications, such as site earth observation, communication, and navigation, are some of the areas where satellites are expected to be refueled in the coming years. Moreover, newer technologies, such as advanced docking systems, fueling ports, and artificial intelligence software are expected to support the growth of the space in-orbit refueling market over the 2022-2032 forecast period.
Segmentation 1: by Application
- Earth Observation
Based on application, the space in-orbit refueling market is expected to be dominated by the communication segment owing to its technological and economic feasibility. Communication and Earth observation applications are expected to see the first initial missions for refueling.
Segmentation 2: by End-User
- Other End Users
Based on end-user, the space in-orbit refueling market is expected to be dominated by commercial end-users. Commercial end-users are expected to garner significant share and growth due to their priority requirement and economic feasibility. Commercial satellite operators with large satellite constellations and heavy communication satellites are expected to adopt the technologies faster compared to any other segment.
Segmentation 3: by Region
- North America
During the forecast period, North America is expected to dominate the space in-orbit refueling market (by region). The significant presence of key companies engaged in developing space in-orbit refueling services is a major factor responsible for the region’s growth. A higher number of collaborations between various service providers, satellite operators, and enabling technology providers is another factor driving the market growth. An increasing number of start-ups and emerging players and successful demonstrations and increasing investments by key players in the market are also contributing to the market growth.
Recent Developments in the Space In-Orbit Refueling Market
- In January 2022, Astroscale Holdings Inc. and Orbit Fab, Inc signed a commercial agreement for refueling LEXI in the GEO orbit. LEXI is the first satellite that is designed to be refueled. As per the agreement, Orbit Fab, Inc will refuel Astroscale’s fleet of LEXI Servicers with up to 1000 kgs of Xenon Propellant.
- To develop technologies for cryogenic propellant storage and transfer, with these awards, NASA is investing in technologies for the storage and transfer of cryogenic propellants in space. Four awards worth more than $250 million went to companies working on cryogenic fluid management.
- To demonstrate refueling a GEO satellite, Northrop Grumman’s Mission Extension Vehicle-1 (MEV-1) docked with Intelsat 901 on 25th February 2020 and pushed the satellite back to its normal orbit. Northrop Grumman’s MEVs are expected to give more than 15 years of life extension to these satellites along with providing spacecraft inspections, inclination changes, and orbit repair.
- In April 2022, Washington’s Defense Innovation Unit (DIU) is planning to provide commercial refilling services in near the prime space real estate of Geosynchronous Orbit, commonly referred to as GEO. It’s also planning on creating a “bulk fuel depot” in the orbits. DIU is looking for companies with the capability for bulk liquid and gas propellant storage (>5,000 kg) in orbit. Two of the propellants include hydrazine and liquid oxygen.
- In April 2022, Orbit Fab, Inc and Neutron Star Systems have announced a partnership for the co-development of sustainable propulsion capability and satellite refueling technologies. The agreement will help to increase the range of refuellable propellants by combining NSS propellant-agnostic electric propulsion technology with Orbit Fab’s refueling interfaces and tankers.
Demand - Drivers and Limitations
Following are the drivers for the Space In-Orbit Refueling market:
- Increase in Demand for Sustainable and Reusable Space Systems
- Life Extension Services to Enable Other In-Orbit Services in Future
Following are the challenges for the Space In-Orbit Refueling market:
- High Operational Cost of Refueling
- Interface and Docking
- Regulatory Challenges
- Spacecraft Design Compatibility for Refueling Operations
- Storage and Transfer of Cryogenic Propellants in Space
Following are the opportunities for the Space In-Orbit Refueling market:
- Increase in Investments for Startups
- Rise in Demand for In-Space Services
- Advancement of New Space Technologies for Storage, Refueling, and Receiving Propellants
How can this report add value to an organization?
Product/Innovation Strategy: The product section will help the reader understand the different solutions for the space in-orbit refueling and services market, such as the type of capabilities and emerging technologies. It will also help readers understand the potential of the services at a global level and learn about their progress. The players operating in these markets are developing innovative offerings and are deeply engaged in long-term agreements and contracts with commercial and government agencies. Moreover, the study also examines the investment scenario in the space in-orbit refueling and services market.
Growth/Marketing Strategy: The players operating in the space in-orbit refueling market are engaged in several strategies, including strategic partnerships, contracts, agreements, and business expansion. The marketing strategies will help the readers understand the revenue-generating strategies adopted by the in-orbit service providers operating in the space in-orbit refueling market.
For instance, Orbit Fab, Inc and the U.S. Air Force Research Laboratory have signed a technology-sharing agreement to share details regarding RAFTI. The company markets its products to all different layers of the military, intelligence, and commercial satellite community. The Air Force will help Orbit Fab review some of the technologies that aided in developing them. More specifically, they are going to advise on requirements and design elements, as well as provide testing and qualification access at several governmental facilities throughout the country.
In February 2022, Northrop Grumman-owned SpaceLogictics has signed a launch agreement with SpaceX and a contract with Optus for the sale of its Mission extension pod. Under the agreement, SpaceX will be responsible for providing launch services for the 2024 MRV and MEP launches.
Competitive Strategy: The study has analyzed and profiled the key service providers, start-ups, and emerging players in the space in-orbit refueling market. These companies capture the maximum share in the global space in-orbit refueling market. Additionally, a detailed competitive benchmarking of the companies and organizations operating in the space in-orbit refueling market has been carried out, which will help the reader to understand the performance of the players, exhibiting a clear market landscape. In addition to this, comprehensive competitive strategies such as partnerships, agreements, and collaborations will aid the reader in understanding the potential revenue opportunities in the market.
Key Market Players and Competition Synopsis
The companies profiled in the study have been selected based on inputs gathered from primary experts and analysis of the companies’ product portfolios, key developments, and market penetration.
Space in-orbit refueling as a technology is still in the development and demonstration phase. However, there are several established players and startups that have entered the market and have made considerable progress. Considering the present market scenario and future forecasts, the market is expected to grow at a CAGR of 103.85% by 2032.
Some prominent established names in this market are:
- Astroscale Holdings Inc.
- Altius Space Machines, Inc.
- D-Orbit SpA
- Lockheed Martin Corporation
- LMO Space
- Maxar Technologies Inc.
- Momentus Space
- Orbit Fab, Inc.
- Obruta Space Solutions
- Orbit Recycling
- SpaceLogistics (a subsidiary of Northrop Grumman Corporation)
- Space Machines Company
- Starfish Space Inc.
- Tethers Unlimited, Inc.