Space Forge is building satellites that make new materials in space then return to Earth. Check out the 6-slide pitch deck it used to raise $10.2 million.
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- Space Forge has landed a $10.2 million seed round to develop satellites that can return to Earth.
- The tech will first be used for manufacturing new materials and conducting research in microgravity.
- The company said this will help make the space industry more sustainable.
A startup building satellites to autonomously manufacture materials in space and then return them to Earth has just landed a $10.2 million seed round.
Cardiff-based Space Forge wants to harness the properties of space — microgravity, vacuum, and low temperatures — to reduce the carbon impact of creating “super materials” such as new metal alloys.
The idea is that the autonomous satellites will manufacture a set number of items and then return to Earth, instead of staying in orbit and contributing to the increasing problem of space junk.
While currently applied to the manufacturing market, this is kind of returnable space infrastructure could be applicable across sectors and potentially a big win for the environment, the startup argues. Technology that is currently single-use could be repaired and relaunched, lowering the cost of entry, Space Forge said. The startup is working with the European Space Agency to develop returnable products for research in microgravity.
Cofounders Josh Western, CEO, and Andrew Bacon, chief technology officer, had the idea while working together at French-Italian aerospace manufacturer Thales Alenia Space.
Manufacturing stronger materials in space to be used on Earth could increase the performance and efficiency in power-hungry infrastructure and systems, such as turbines in aerospace engines that must withstand extreme heat without expanding.
New types of fiber-optic cables, ceramics, and metal alloys could be made in microgravity as it allows elements to be mixed together that would be “very difficult or impossible” on Earth, such as lead and aluminium, said Bacon.
“If you try to do that on Earth, you melt the lead, you melt the aluminium, and what would happen is the lead would sink to the bottom and then aluminium will go to the top because it’s less dense,” he told Insider. “You don’t end up with a nice alloy, you end up with an alloy with a load of aluminium on top and lead on the bottom.”
“You do that in space, in microgravity, there is no up and there is no down. The metals will mix together much better. That means you can certainly make a new alloy that was either very difficult or impossible to make on Earth.”
The cofounders, who had the idea and founded the company 2018 but didn’t get started until 2020, crossed out manufacturing on the International Space Station because of the risk lead fumes may pose to astronauts.
“The big problem is being able to make things in a place where it’s safe,” Bacon added. Using an autonomous satellite – “far away from people” – means the company can also explore the creation of new materials.
Then they ran into the “real problem”: How do you get materials back from space?
“I’d say the cost of returning stuff in space hasn’t really changed much in the last 20 to 30 years, because we’re still using the same technology that really is Apollo-era technology,” Bacon said. “You put those two together suddenly you’ve got a whole new business and access to market.”
Space Forge’s satellites would be in orbit for two weeks to six months, depending on the customer. Bacon could not share how much customers will be billed, but said it’s “cheap for space.”
The round was co-led by US-based space investors SpaceFund and Type One, and Berlin-based World Fund, a new European fund launched by tree-planting search engine Ecosia.
The cash will be used to launch its first test satellite by the end of 2022 and bolster headcount from 25 to 40.
Check out the six-slide deck Space Forge used to raise the fresh funds.