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Developing reusable satellites: British spacetech closes largest-ever seed round in European space tech sector

Space Forge
Image credits: Space Forge

Cardiff-based Space Forge works with the mission to lead the clean industrial revolution with its fully returnable satellites under development.

Oversubscribed funding round

Now, the company has closed the largest ever seed round in the European space tech sector by picking up $10.2 million. The oversubscribed round reached four times its target with investments from worldwide. It was co-led by US-based SpaceFund and Type One and Berlin-based World Fund focusing on pioneering climate tech startups.

Other US-based funds that participated in the round include SpaceVC, Starbridge Venture Capital, Quiet Capital, Kencoa Aerospace, Trousdale Ventures, Dylan Taylor, and FJ Labs. Even new investors – Newable Ventures, UK’s leading early-stage investment network focused on disruptive and potentially high-growth companies, and Virgin Galactic’s George T. Whitesides.

Space Forge will use the funding to first launch and return a ForgeStar. The unique aspect of this model is not only to manufacture materials in space but also complementary and much-needed capability to return those materials from orbit without the use of an ablative capsule. It significantly improves the characteristics of return from space and aiding refurbishment.

Andrew Bacon, CTO and co-founder of Space Forge said: “Over the last three years we have taken our return technology from paper designs to real hardware. This support from our investors will supercharge our development plans to lead the way in making space work for humanity.”

Joshua Western, CEO and co-founder of Space Forge added: “Making space work for humanity and our planet has always been our goal and this investment enables us to build our first-generation platforms and undertake several missions in pursuit of that goal. We’re just getting started.”

Tarek Waked, Founder of Type One Ventures: “Joshua and Andrew prove that there is real value that can be brought to humanity via building a space company. If you have the will, capacity, and the idea, anyone can build a space company in the 2020s, not just billionaires. I could not be more proud of the team at Space Forge and look forward to working with them for a very long time.”

Meagan Crawford, Managing Partner of SpaceFund: “SpaceFund is always looking for the companies that not only have the vision, but have the technical and market capabilities to execute on that vision. Unlike many of the other in-space manufacturing companies we’ve reviewed, Space Forge has the right combination of technology, team, and market timing to provide a significant return to investors, while helping save the environment.”

Fully returnable satellites

Founded by Andrew Bacon and Joshua Western, Space Forge is developing fully returnable satellites that are designed for manufacturing next-generation super materials. It is the world’s first service incorporating both launch and return of a new small class of vehicle – the ForgeStar. Capable of being deployed from conventional launchers, it can provide rapid, reliable and reusable in-space infrastructure.

These ForgeStar orbital vehicles will be launched into orbit over 300 miles above Earth. These will exploit the simple launch systems that are under development by aerospace companies including Virgin Orbit. Usually, small rockets are launched into the upper atmosphere on jumbo jets before firing into space. When in the orbit, ForgeStar vehicles circle the Earth for one to six months. There will be automated robotic systems that will direct the manufacturing and testing of pharmaceuticals, alloys and electronic components that cannot be made on Earth.

It should transform the way materials are manufactured in microgravity. Research suggests that manufacturing these materials in space could reduce CO2 emissions by 75%, which is equivalent to removing all petrol cars from the UK.

This returnable service that will enable microgravity research on demand has been awarded a $2.4 million contract through the European Space Agency’s Boost! Programme that is supported by the UK Space Agency.

Paul Bate, Chief Executive of the UK Space Agency: “I’ve visited Space Forge in Cardiff and was impressed by the raw energy, creativity and innovation on show there. Clearly international investors are also impressed, with the investment round four times oversubscribed and millions of pounds secured to support the company on the next steps of its journey.

“Space Forge are demonstrating why the UK is the place to invest in space, and showing the significant commercial opportunities from technologies like in-orbit manufacturing.”

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