Manufacturing in space could help humanity fight climate change, startup says


An in-orbit manufacturing startup that plans to launch its first demonstration mission this year believes that space factories could help humanity reduce greenhouse gas emissions and thwart climate change.

Wales-based Space Forge is set to launch its returnable and reusable ForgeStar in-orbit manufacturing experience this summer with Virgin Orbit from the UK’s new spaceport in Cornwall, in what is expected to be the first-ever orbital launch from UK soil.

Speaking at the ‘Towards a Space Enabled Net Zero Earth’ conference in London this week, the company’s CEO and co-founder Josh Western said manufacturing in space could contribute to a greener future. and more durable in many ways, despite the carbon footprint of rocket launches.

Earth is an amazing place to live, but it’s a terrible place to build,” Western said during his presentation. Land in order to build just about anything. “

Related: Crafting stuff in space: Off-Earth manufacturing is just getting started

The space, Western said, naturally provides an environment that allows for high-tech manufacturing without complex, power-hungry equipment.

“Space provides a much better manufacturing base for almost any material,” Western said. “Going to space enables about a billion new alloy combinations through a combination of microgravityhigh purity vacuum (without the need for multi-stage pumps) and access to extreme temperatures of plus to minus 260 degrees Celsius [plus 500 degrees Fahrenheit to minus 436 degrees Fahrenheit] depending on your platform orientation.”

That in itself, Western said, reduces the energy consumption of manufacturing in space compared to facilities on Earth. Products made in space, he said, could offer further carbon savings through their improved efficiency and performance.

“The applications we’re focused on at Space Forge are really in the advanced materials space,” Western said. “And that allows us to develop new types of semiconductors, new types of composites that can exceed the state of the art about 100 times in performance through improvements in heat capacity and heat management. the power.”

This advantage, Western said, could reduce the energy bills of technologies based on these semiconductors and composite materials by up to 60%.

As examples, Western cited 5G mobile telecommunications infrastructure and lighter, more energy-efficient jet engines made from more durable and lightweight materials.

“Our goal is to truly be the world’s first carbon-negative space company,” Western said. “My ambition is that for every kilogram of carbon dioxide we create at Space Forge, we prevent 15 tons from entering the atmosphere.”

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