A three-year-old space startup just received funding from two of the industry's giants.
Orbit Fab, a San Francisco-based company working on solutions to help spacecraft refuel in orbit, earned investments from Lockheed Martin and Northrop Grumman as part of a recent $10 million round, according to The Wall Street Journal.
Orbit is developing vehicles that can attach themselves to other spacecraft, like satellites, and provide them with fuel. The company created a latch system that allows the vehicles to attach themselves to other spacecraft.
Chris Moran, executive director at Lockheed Martin's venture arm, told the Journal that the space giant's clients had expressed interest in extending the life of their satellites by keeping them in orbit even after they've run out of fuel. This led the firm to seek out a company like Orbit Fab for an investment.
Orbit Fab hopes to launch two refueling shuttles next year. The company in June launched a test vehicle aboard a SpaceX rocket to ensure that the latch system worked.
The startup, which was co-founded by space industry veterans Daniel Faber and Jeremy Schiel in 2018, has raised $17 million in total.
Private space companies have seen an uptick in investments in recent years. In 2020, 61 companies made investments in space startups--twice as many as in 2015, according to the Journal.
In this year's second quarter, private space companies received $4.5 billion in total investments--the largest quarterly number ever, according to the venture firm Space Capital. That puts 2021 on track to surpass the record $9.1 billion in total deals measured last year.
Many space startups have cracked into the industry by attacking decades-old problems with innovative solutions. Michigan-based Atlas Space improves satellite-to-ground communication by applying software to processes that used to be manual. Planet Labs currently has more than 200 mini-satellites, which are far cheaper than traditional ones, orbiting the earth and collecting data for clients.
And Los Angeles-based Relativity Space, which is building more affordable reusable rockets in part by using 3-D printing, closed a $650 million round earlier this year to bring its total raised to a whopping $1.3 billion.