Space Forge to Offer ‘Microgravity on Demand’ in 2022
UK-based commercial space company Space Forge recently announced it is working with partners, including the European Space Agency (ESA), to develop ForgeStar, a small, cheap, and flexible in-space manufacturing service. Using the unique environment of space, it hopes to provide applications in areas like medicine and advanced industry.
Aiming to be ready in 2022, ForgeStar is a reusable suitcase-sized vehicle that can be launched from a variety of launch vehicles into low Earth orbit, where it will enable companies to conduct experiments, manufacture new materials or increase the purity or capability of existing materials, and then bring the results back for use on Earth.
There are a number of constraints to manufacturing on Earth. Gravity, for example, prevents perfect alloying in metals of different densities, and the planet’s atmosphere can sometimes contaminate processes. Extreme temperatures are also more difficult to create. By manufacturing in space, companies and researchers can take advantage of microgravity, near-zero temperatures, and a vacuum free from contamination.
“Space Forge has raised private funding, identified niche markets and strengthened its core team and industrial organization to bring these novel reentry and recovery technologies to life,” said Jorgen Bru, ESA’s Commercial Services Manager and Technical Officer for the contract. “ESA is delighted to support Space Forge in its endeavor to prepare this service for the market.”
ForgeStar will be part of a complete commercial service offering “microgravity on demand” as a routine access to and return from space service that promises to be more flexible and responsive than existing opportunities, ensure a confidential setting, and offer possibilities for customization and a comfortable return to Earth.
In its ForgeStar Orbital Vehicle-1 configuration, ForgeStar can only host a few kilograms on any one return mission, though Space Forge said it intends to subsequently scale up the vehicle and increase this capacity tenfold in future versions.
“We’re thrilled to receive this support for the ForgeStar platform,” said Joshua Western, CEO and Co-Founder at Space Forge. “Sustainable return from space can unlock commercial opportunities not otherwise possible, and leverage Low Earth Orbit as a resource in a similar way to how reductions in launch prices have democratized access to space. Space Forge is uniquely positioned to multiply the value of microgravity research coupled with dedicated return and we cannot wait to see the positive impact this will have on commercial space.”
Space Forge took the idea for the service from the success of similar but limited opportunities on the International Space Station and experiments on parabolic flights.
ESA is supporting ForgeStar through a two-year contract worth two million euros within its Boost! program, which provides co-funding, tailored expert advice, and the use of testing facilities to help European firms to develop new space transportation services. This covers the preliminary and detailed design phases, as well as the launch, in-orbit operation, and return of the first operational ForgeStar demonstration vehicle.
ForgeStar is the first service project within Boost! with return-to-Earth capability. It complements a larger-scale initiative currently under ESA development known as Space Rider, an uncrewed, reusable robotic space laboratory to be launched on the Vega-C rocket.
Frank White has authored or coauthored numerous books on topics ranging from space exploration to climate change to artificial intelligence. His best-known work, The Overview Effect: Space Exploration and Human...
Micah helps people understand and participate in the global space economy, commercial space companies, entrepreneurial activity, finance, government budgets and programs, or space policy. In his role as President of...
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