Wales’ first satellite, the ForgeStar-0, has been awarded a satellite licence by the UK Civil Aviation Authority. The satellite is now ready to be launched as part of the historic ‘Start Me Up’ mission, which will be the first launch from UK soil and the first horizontal launch from Western Europe, delivered by Virgin Orbit from Spaceport Cornwall.
ForgeStar-0 was built by Cardiff-based Space Forge, who are creating the world’s first returnable and reusable satellite platform. The mission will test the deployment of Space Forge’s proprietary re-entry shield. During future operational missions the shield will protect a satellite traveling through the heat of atmospheric re-entry; targeting small landing zones off the coast of the UK and other countries.
This technology is key to enabling Space Forge’s ambitions to make space work for humanity by harnessing the power of microgravity; offering an on-demand service to advance the expansion of the in-space manufacturing market for the research and production of new super materials that aim to tackle some of the biggest problems faced by modern society.
In-space manufacturing services are currently in high demand but face the key barriers of unreliable return and infrequency of launch. To remedy this, Space Forge are 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.
Space Forge’s satellite is one of nine that will be launched aboard Virgin Orbit’s LauncherOne rocket in the coming weeks. To enter orbit, all UK owned/operated satellites must receive a licence under the SIA/OSA prior to launch. Granted by the UK Civil Aviation Authority, an orbital satellite operator licence authorises a person or organisation to; procure the launch of a space object into orbit, operate a space object in orbit or conduct other activity in outer space.
This orbital licence follows Virgin Orbit receiving their launch and range licences; proving to the UK Civil Aviation Authority it has taken all reasonable steps to ensure safety risks arising from launch activities are as low as reasonably practicable.
Andrew Bacon, CTO and Co-founder, Space Forge: “Being the first Welsh company to be awarded a satellite orbital license is both exciting and humbling. We cannot wait to use the lessons learned from this launch to prepare the way for our first fully-functional space factory.”
Joshua Western, CEO and Co-founder, Space Forge: “This is the final step in our road to launch. We are thrilled to be part of this historic UK mission and the prospect that UK launch capabilities bring. The ForgeStar-0 represents the start of our journey in Low Earth Orbit and the success of this missionwill accelerate our ambitions to make space work for humanity.”
Ian Annett, Deputy CEO at the UK Space Agency, said: “This is an exciting moment for Space Forge and our long term plans to make commercial in-space manufacturing a reality, for the benefit of life on Earth. It also means the first satellite launch from UK soil will carry Wales’ first satellite, marking two major milestones for the space sector as a whole. It's testament to the hard work of the Space Forge team that they have reached this point in their journey, after starting up just a few years ago."
Following this initial mission, Space Forge’s focus is producing materials and products which offer game-changing levels of performance and efficiency in power-hungry infrastructure and systems - reducing the environmental impact of production on earth to unlock new value and innovation. Research suggests that manufacturing these materials in space could reduce CO2 emissions by 75% in high value infrastructure, from EV charging stations to cloud computing data centres.