Funding puts Bristol space manufacturing firm on the launch pad for growth

April 17, 2020

A Bristol business developing a reusable manufacturing satellite that will enable materials to be developed in space has secured £250,000 in funding from a group of established city-based entrepreneurs.

The finance 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 as it gears up for full-scale launch. 

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 SETSquared incubator.

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 Earth’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.

The microgravity 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 is targeting applications which will prevent megatonnes of CO2 from ever reaching the atmosphere.

Space Forge currently has a link-up with a rocket company that would launch from New Zealand but eventually it aims to put its manufacturing satellites into space from UK sites, such as Cornwall.

The 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.

Space Forge 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.”

BPEC was founded in 2016 and now has 85 members who, as successful entrepreneurs and businesspeople, have capital to invest. In three years it has put more than £6.7m in 23 businesses from in and around the city.

Founder Jerry Barnes 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 in the world working on this and for Bristol to be the base of the only one in Europe is very exciting.

“Space Forge presented their ideas to our members and 12 of them wanted to get involved.”

Among those investing are Pete Stirling, formerly of Stirling Dynamics, and Rupert Atkinson, who has worked with technology start-ups, who will add their expertise to the project.

Cook Corporate acted for BPEC in finalising the deal.

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