Nato’s $1bn Fund Backs British Start-Up to Build Space Factories

Nato’s $1bn Fund Backs British Start-Up to Build Space Factories

19 Jun    Finance News, Get Funded

Cardiff-based start-up Space Forge, aiming to launch robotic factories into space, has secured funding from Nato’s $1.1bn (£870m) investment fund.

Space Forge plans to utilise low-gravity conditions in space to manufacture crystals for advanced microchips, new medicines, and super-alloys.

These satellites, designed to be the world’s first reusable orbiting factories, will return to Earth using a unique “Mary Poppins-style” umbrella. This initiative is part of Nato’s strategy to foster “dual-use” technologies to stay ahead of Russia and China.

In the vacuum and low-gravity environment of space, Space Forge can grow highly pure “seed” crystals. These crystals will produce sophisticated microchips that are faster and more energy-efficient, potentially leading to a 50% improvement in radar range and smaller satellites by 30-50%.

Space Forge has partnered with American defence giant Northrop Grumman to develop these advanced microchips for more powerful radar systems. Josh Western, Space Forge’s CEO, stated, “The next industrial revolution is not going to be here on Earth, it is going to be in space. It’s a really fundamental chemistry breakthrough.”

The company plans to conduct a test within the next 12 months to prove the viability of its landing technology, likely using a SpaceX rocket from Cape Canaveral, Florida. This will be followed by a mission to demonstrate the safe return of space-made crystals to Earth.

The funding from the Nato Innovation Fund is crucial for constructing the Forgestar 2 platform, which will be used in the second test. Despite a setback last year when a satellite was lost in Virgin Orbit’s failed “Start Me Up” mission, Space Forge is moving forward with its ambitious plans.

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This announcement coincides with the Nato Innovation Fund’s first round of investments, which include three British start-ups. Besides Space Forge, these are Bristol-based carbon fibre specialist iCOMAT, London-based chip designer Fractile, and Germany-based ARX Robotics, which makes unmanned ground vehicles.

Andrea Traversone, the fund’s managing partner, emphasised the importance of backing disruptive technologies that support defence, security, and resilience within the alliance. He noted, “Our mandate is to back disruptive technologies to support defence, security and resilience in the alliance and these four companies are all good examples of that.”

The Nato Innovation Fund, established in 2022 following Russia’s attack on Ukraine, aims to nurture nascent technologies with transformative potential for security. The fund operates on a 15-year horizon and, while the size of individual investments is not disclosed, it is engaged in discussions with numerous other start-ups for potential future investments.

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