Space Forge plans to launch reusable craft into Space

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Space Forge plans to launch reusable craft into Space

When Josh Western and Andrew Bacon set up their Space Forge company last year, they had a garage to work in and little else. Today, the two Cardiff-based entrepreneurs have a staff of 25 and are planning further expansion after raising 7.6 m of international seed-funding.

The financing that will be announced later this week is expected to allow the company to start a remarkable aerospace endeavour: deploying satellites in which new alloys, medicines and semiconductors can be manufactured in outer space and then brought back to Earth. The first missions are planned for the end of 2022.

Western said that Earth is a wonderful place to live but terrible for manufacturing so many things. You have to fight gravity and the dense atmosphere while trying not to cause pollution. But in space you have no gravity to interfere with the mixing of materials, while you have a pure vacuum and no atmospheric pollution. You can also turn your instruments towards or away from the Sun to heat or cool them quickly. The issue is getting into space. Space Forge believes that its reusable factories will provide the answer, as it has received backing from the European Space Agency and the UK Space Agency. These oven-sized craft, called ForgeStar orbital vehicles, will be launched more than 300 miles above Earth.

They will exploit the simple launch systems that are developing by aerospace companies such as Virgin Orbit. Small rockets are carried on jumbo jets into the upper atmosphere and then fired into space. ForgeStar vehicles will circle Earth for one to six months once they are in orbit. Automated robotic systems will be responsible for the manufacturing and testing of alloys, pharmaceuticals and electronic components that can't be made on Earth.

It should change the way materials are manufactured in microgravity. Experiments on the International Space Station have shown the value of space manufacturing, said Western. An example of glass fibres used in communication systems is fluoride. They tend to be a bit cloudy on Earth. The space station's materials are crystal clear and 10 to 100 times better at transmitting signals.

Our ForgeStar vehicles are designed to make materials like that. This week, Space Forge will release details of the funding it has raised from US, UK and other investors, including the Berlin-based World Fund and the US-based SpaceFund. International investors are impressed, said Paul Bate, chief executive of the UK Space Agency. The investment was four times oversubscribed and millions of pounds secured to support the company on the next steps of its journey. This point was supported by Western. We hope to have our first ForgeStar in space by the end of 2022, and we hope that we will be able to get our first ForgeStar into space by the end of 2022.