A Bristol business that is developing a reusable manufacturing satellite to enable materials to be built in space, has secured £250,000 worth of funding, including backing from a dozen of Bristol’s established entrepreneurs. The funding will enable Space Forge, which started in a garage in Bradley Stoke, to expand into laboratories in Bristol and Wales and recruit 10 members of staff within the next 12 months.
Space Forge founders Joshua Western and Andrew Bacon secured £150,000 of funding from Bristol Private Equity Club (BPEC) with 12 members investing in the futuristic project. That deal will also unlock a grant of £100,000 from Innovate UK’s Regional Angel Investment Accelerator through Bristol-based business incubator SETSquared.
Space Forge is part of a clean industrial revolution that will enable a huge variety of materials to be manufactured in space, causing less impact to the world’s environment. Alloys and crystals for use in computing and telecoms, pharmaceutical products and fibre-optics are among the first items to be manufactured in this way.
Chief executive Joshua Western said: “We are a space company looking to manufacture next generation materials in space. Some of the materials we aim to manufacture ourselves but we will also be offering it as a service to others”.
The micro-gravity found in space makes crystals grow larger and alloys mix better. There is also free access to the natural high vacuum of space and very cold temperatures: both of which are important in manufacturing. Ultimately by leaving the gravity of Earth, Space Forge will be able to make billions of new alloys and other materials that can achieve efficiencies that are not possible today.
Despite the burden of accessing space, Space Forge’s are targeting applications which will prevent megatonnes of CO2
from ever reaching the Earth’s atmosphere. Space Forge currently have a link up with a rocket company that would launch from New Zealand but they aim eventually to be launching the manufacturing satellites from sites in the UK such as Cornwall.
The manufacturing satellites would circle the Earth for between two weeks and six months, depending on the process being undertaken, before returning to Earth to be reused. This would make them the first-ever reusable satellites that do not need a space shuttle to catch and return them.
Jerry Barnes, founder of Bristol Private Equity Club, said: “This is exactly the type of innovative and entrepreneurial business that our members look for. We can see that it has the potential to be incredibly successful and change the world. There are only three businesses world-wide working on this and for Bristol to be the base of the only one in Europe is very exciting.
“Space Forge presented its ideas to our members and 12 of them wanted to get involved. Among those investing are Peter Stirling of Stirling Dynamics and Rupert Atkinson, who has worked with technology start-ups, both will add their expertise to the project.”
BPEC comprises like-minded and highly-successful entrepreneurs who have run companies in a wide range of different sectors and understand the trials and tribulations that come with starting and growing a business. They bring their varied skills and experiences to the Bristol business community, providing opportunities for the next generation of entrepreneurs to pitch for investment.
In just under four years BPEC members have invested £6.7 million in 23 local businesses, including smartphone developers OKKO and innovators of a Anaphite, an ‘electronic nose’ to detect hazardous gases and pollutants.