So far, we’ve been using traditional manufacturing methods, but as Space Forge co-founder Josh Western points out, Earth is a pretty bad place to create things. Earth’s dense atmosphere, stable temperature and gravity may be detrimental to the manufacturing process, but these problems don’t exist in space.
“Let’s say you’re making an aluminum alloy,” said another co-founder of the companyAndrew Bacon says. “On Earth, if you mixed metals together, they would separate into two layers, with heavy lead on the bottom and aluminum on top. But in microgravity, you don’t have that problem, you can actually mix them properly in Together.”
When manufacturing in space, you also don’t have to worry about airborne contamination, such as oxygen-producing oxides. “The unique conditions make space a better place to make things than on Earth,” Bacon added.
The platform is called ForgeStar and has about a smallovenSo big. Once in orbit, it will orbit Earth for up to six months, and its internal robotic systems will create lightweight alloys and ultra-efficient semiconductors. When the job is complete, the satellite will return home with its payload, then refurbished and relaunched with a new set of raw materials.
It might sound like an expensive endeavor, but according to Bacon, getting things into space is much more affordable than it used to be. “Typically, it used to cost $20,000 a kilo,” he said. “Now, you can get it for as little as $1,000.”
ForgeStar will begin its space journey in September. It will be strapped to a rocket along with other satellites and flown aboard Virgin Orbit’s Cosmic Girl jet. Once at 35,000 feet, the pilot will lower the rocket and fire it to send the payload into space.