Virgin Orbit and European in-space manufacturing tech start-up Space Forge have signed an agreement to launch the first satellite developed in Wales in summer 2022.
In a historic moment for UK space, the satellite will be launched as part of a broader joint UK-US mission to open the country’s first domestic spaceport in summer 2022 out of Spaceport Cornwall in Newquay, Cornwall.
Space Forge is on a mission to make space work for humanity – seeking to harness the power of microgravity, offering an on-demand service to advance the expansion of the market for premium research and development applications.
Space Forge recently announced that, along with partners, it is developing a world-first service incorporating both launch and return of a new small class of vehicle – the ForgeStar – that can be deployed from conventional launchers to provide rapid, reliable and reusable in-space infrastructure. This inaugural mission will see Space Forge’s ForgeStar-0 platform launched for the first time and will test future return from space technology.
Space Forge is developing fully returnable satellites that are designed for manufacturing super materials in space. The company wants to take advantage of the space environment’s microgravity, vacuum, and temperature, to create products that cannot be manufactured on Earth. This inaugural mission will launch Space Forge’s ForgeStar-0 platform to test its future return from space technology.
Commenting on the deal, Virgin Orbit CEO of Dan Hart, said: “We at Virgin Orbit are delighted to have been chosen to move Space Forge forward in their space journey as we look forward to our inaugural Cornwall launch. Space Forge is joining the growing community of space innovators advancing space technologies for the betterment of our world. Their commitment to sustainability builds a foundation for future growth in the industry that we at Virgin Orbit are proud to be part of.”
Joshua Western, CEO of Space Forge, added: “We’re thrilled to be making UK history with our first launch. We will demonstrate the use of space for good through in-space manufacturing and reliable return and it’s brilliant that both Virgin Orbit and Spaceport Cornwall share our ambitions. This is the start of a great collaboration and we are so excited to see where it goes.”
Melissa Thorpe, Head of Spaceport Cornwall, stated: “Launch from Cornwall is the chance to set the bar for the global space industry. Leading with companies like Space Forge, who are innovating in the responsible use of space, is key to this next iteration of space exploration. It’s amazing to see our partners Virgin Orbit select customers who share our ambitions in this area and we can’t wait to show the world how this can be done.”
Dr Paul Bate, CEO of the UK Space Agency, commented: “The UK is set to become the first nation in Europe to offer small satellite launch, as we become one of the most attractive space economies in the world.
“Space Forge is an innovative, fast-growing company and their agreement with Virgin Orbit demonstrates how all regions of the UK are playing a key role in our ambition to create a thriving small satellite launch market. In-space manufacturing harnesses the benefits of the space environment to create materials far superior to those we can produce on Earth, which can be used to speed up electric car charging or improve the lifetime of aircraft engines.
“This is a huge moment for Space Forge to be part of the first satellite launch from the UK and I wish them all the best, along with Spaceport Cornwall and Virgin Orbit.”