Space Forge awarded ESA funding for pioneering launch tech

Posted on 27 September, 2021 by Advance 

Cardiff start-up Space Forge, has secured a £1.71 million boost to develop commercial space transportation services which could help place the UK at the forefront of the global small satellite launch market.


(left to right) UK Space Agency CEO Paul Bate and Josh Western CEO of Space Forge.
Courtesy UK Space Agency

Space Forge, founded in 2018, has been awarded the funding through the European Space Agency’s (ESA) Boost! programme, which is supported by the UK Space Agency, to support the design, development, construction and launch of a space-based manufacturing satellite named ForgeStar Orbital Vehicle (FSOV-1).

To deliver the project, Space Forge will lead a consortium including Clyde Space, Goonhilly Earth Station, the Compound Semiconductor Applications Catapult, and the Science and Technology Facilities Council (STFC). The funding will also enable Space Forge, which specialises in designing reusable satellites, to benefit from ESA’s pioneering facilities, technical teams and business networks.

Scheduled for launch in 2022, FSOV-1 will test multiple functions including return-to-Earth technology and tracking software and enable Space Forge to use the space environment to make new material structures that cannot be manufactured on Earth.

Science Minister George Freeman said: “The UK is fast becoming Europe’s leading destination for small satellite launches, and our growing space industry is developing world-class commercial spaceflight capability up and down the country. Growing the UK space sector is a major part of the Government’s UK Science Superpower vision.
“Today’s funding for one of our most innovative space businesses is a big step forward for UK spaceflight, and will help to create highly-skilled jobs as we build back better from the pandemic.”

The FSOV-1 vehicle is being built in Space Forge’s design and manufacturing site at Eastgate Business Park in Cardiff. The site currently employs 17 people – a team that has grown from two in just 16 months. Space Forge is looking to expand further, creating another 10 job roles within the next six to eight months to cater for the growing market for UK launch.

The UK invested £12 million into the Boost! programme, one of the largest investments from ESA member states, in 2019. Scottish space companies Orbex and Skyrora, as well as D-Orbit which has a subsidiary in Harwell in Oxfordshire, have also secured Boost! funding.

Secretary of State for Wales Simon Hart said: “It’s great to see Wales at the forefront of space technology and congratulations to Space Forge on their remarkable success.
“The UK, and Wales, is thriving in the space sector and this £1.7 million funding proves the UK Space Agency’s commitment to supporting pioneering projects.”

UK Space Agency Chief Executive, Dr Paul Bate, said: “This success for Space Forge shows how UK firms are at the forefront of the global space industry.

“The substantial funding support we are delivering to our growing space sector, alongside our world-leading regulatory regime and strong international agreements, means the UK is well placed to benefit from the new commercial opportunities UK launch will bring to communities across the four nations.”

Josh Western, CEO and Co-Founder of Space Forge said: “We’re thrilled to receive this support for the ForgeStar platform. Sustainable return from space can unlock commercial opportunities not otherwise possible, and leverage Low Earth Orbit as a resource in a similar way to how reductions in launch prices have democratised access to space.

“Space Forge is uniquely positioned to multiply the value of microgravity research coupled with dedicated return and we cannot wait to see the positive impact this will have on commercial space.”

New small satellite constellations will improve our access to data and communications services and revolutionise satellite navigation and Earth observation, enhancing the way we interact with our planet.

Harnessing the opportunities provided by commercial spaceflight will help level up the UK and build a truly global Britain – creating high skilled jobs and local opportunities around UK spaceports.