UK space company secures £ 7.6million to fund test of factory satellites | Space

Last year when Josh Western and Andrew Bacon started their business Space Forge, they had a garage to work in and nothing else. Today, the two Cardiff-based entrepreneurs employ 25 people and are now considering further expansion after raising £ 7.6million from international seed funds.

The funding – to be announced later this week – is expected to allow the company to launch a remarkable aerospace venture: deploying satellites in which new alloys, drugs and semiconductors can be made into space and then brought back to space. Earth. The first missions are now scheduled for the end of 2022.

“Earth is a wonderful place to live but terrible for making so many things,” Western said. “We have to fight against gravity and the dense atmosphere, trying not to pollute. But in space you have no gravity to interfere with the mixing of materials, while you have pure vacuum and no air pollution. And you also turn your instruments towards or away from the Sun to heat or cool them quickly.

Getting into space is the problem. Space Forge, which has already received support from the British Space Agency and the European Space Agency, believes its reusable factories will provide the answer. These furnace-sized boats, called ForgeStar Orbital Vehicles, will be launched into orbit more than 300 miles above Earth.

They will exploit the simple launch systems that aerospace companies such as Virgin Orbit are developing. Small rockets are transported into the upper atmosphere on board large aircraft and then launched into space. Once in orbit, ForgeStar vehicles will circle the earth for one to six months. Inside the small ship, automated robotic systems will direct the manufacturing and testing of alloys, pharmaceuticals, and electronic components that cannot be made on Earth.

It should transform the way materials are made into microgravity. “Experiments on the International Space Station have shown the value of space fabrication,” Western said. “Fluorinated glass fibers used in communication systems are one example. Made on Earth, they tend to be a bit cloudy. Those made on the space station are crystal clear and 10 to 100 times better at transmitting signals.

“Our ForgeStar vehicles are designed to make such materials. “

This week, Space Forge will release details of the funding it has raised from US, UK and other investors, including the US-based SpaceFund and the Berlin-based World Fund, which supports companies pioneering new technologies. green. “Obviously, international investors are impressed,” said Paul Bate, chief executive of the UK Space Agency. “The investment has been four times oversubscribed and millions of pounds secured to support the company in the next stages of its journey.”

This point was supported by Western. “I hope we can now send our first ForgeStar into space by the end of 2022.”

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