18.2 C
Thursday, June 8, 2023
HomeTechUK's Space Forge introduces new reentry technology for in-space production satellites

UK’s Space Forge introduces new reentry technology for in-space production satellites


Start-up of space production in Wales Space forge has developed a satellite reentry system to enable rapid recovery and reuse of its spacecraft for production in space.

The new system, which includes a heat shield and a water vehicle designed to soften the spacecraft’s landing, will be incorporated into the company’s in-space production satellite platform called ForgeStar.

Unlike ablative heat shields, such as those used on SpaceX’s Dragon capsule, which must be replaced after each mission, Space Forge says it built its “Pridwen” heat shield to be large enough to dissipate the heat generated. generated by blasting away atmospheric reentry. The shield, made of a high-temperature resistant alloy, is designed to fold into the launcher for liftoff and unfold when the spacecraft returns to Earth.

Moving away from ablative heat shields is one way Space Forge hopes to differentiate itself from its competitors.

“It’s old technology,” explained Andrew Bacon, co-founder and chief technology officer of Space Forge. “The idea of ​​ablative heat shields, something that eats itself up when it returns, it’s (1950s) technology.”

Image credit: Space Forge

The company has also developed a non-manned water vehicle, “Fielder”, that will maneuver itself under ForgeStar and “catch” it in a soft landing. The idea is to reduce the load on sensitive payloads in the vehicle as much as possible, while also reducing the need for spacecraft refurbishment.

Space Forge is one of a handful of companies vying to be among the first to exploit the potentially astronomical space-made materials market. The five-year-old startup has ambitious plans to enable the manufacture of semiconductors, pharmaceuticals, certain alloys and more. While astronauts on the International Space Station have proven that these materials can be manufactured in orbit, it still has to be achieved to manufacture them on a large scale – and bring them back to Earth.

1684149896 763 UKs Space Forge introduces new reentry technology for in space production

Image credit: Space Forge

“The space station is a great laboratory, but it’s not a factory,” Bacon said. Nor is manufacturing in space as simple as turning a Dragon capsule, the most widely used cargo and crew vehicle in history, into an orbital factory. The capsule is simply not optimized for it – in terms of cost or technology, he explained.

“SpaceX has done a great job reducing launch costs, but they haven’t really reduced return costs,” he said.

In addition to the cost, the mechanics of Dragon’s return can pose problems for some materials, such as living biological cultures. “We’ve talked to biologic customers who lost their three-year development experiments in the last millisecond of landing,” Bacon explains due to the major shock of the landing.

The company says it is on track to launch its inaugural mission this year. That mission, which will not carry customer payloads, will demonstrate Space Forge’s production engineering and prove other key technologies, including safe-return technology. While Bacon declined to specify a possible launch date or launch provider, he did say the company chose a US launch provider with proven flight history.

The company first attempted to launch a spacecraft on Virgin Orbit’s January mission from Cornwall, UK, but that payload – and everything else – was lost when Virgin’s launch vehicle encountered an anomaly and failed to reach orbit.

Space Forge closed a $10.2 million seed round in 2021, co-led by US-based companies SpaceFund and Type One Ventures, and Berlin-based World Fund. Space.VC, Starbridge Venture Capital, Quiet Capital, Kencoa Aerospace, Trousdale Ventures, Newable Ventures, Dylan Taylor and FJ Labs also participated.

As for the company’s next round of funding? “Expect an announcement soon,” Bacon said.

The author of what'snew2day.com is dedicated to keeping you up-to-date on the latest news and information.

Latest stories