An interview with Space Forge's CEO & Co-Founder, Joshua Western
Could you tell us about Space Forge and how you came to found it?
Space Forge is working towards making returnable and relaunchable spacecraft.
We founded the company in 2018, after recognising the huge climate benefits that outsourcing complex manufacturing environments to space could have. We have been working with ESA through their Space Transportation Programme to create our unique service – the ForgeStar. Despite the environmental burden of getting to and from space, it offers such a significantly better baseline for almost any industrial process. So much so, that for every kg of CO2 Space Forge creates, we can prevent up to 80t of CO2 being emitted on the ground.
Can you tell us about ForgeStar™ and what you mean by “Microgravity as a Service”?
The ForgeStar is a flexible modular satellite consisting of the orbital module and an interchangeable microgravity capsule to ensure a safe, reliable return from space. It will make sure that microgravity becomes accessible for the manufacturing of existing and new products in a more sustainable way.
To create the optimal environment for specific manufacturing processes, you often need gravity to be as low as possible, a vacuum, and near absolute zero temperatures. For example, by having a 10 trillion times lower ambient pressure, it can drastically reduce contamination issues and the need for multistage pumps, and the use of absolute zero reduces the need for cryogenics when curing.
By allowing all of these factors to become more accessible through a reliable, returnable satellite, we can begin to create high-efficiency infrastructure we have never been able to before, with far less CO2 produced through the process.
Space technology is specifically recognised as one of the keys to achieving the 17 Sustainable Development Goals for 2030 set out by the United Nations. How do you see Space Forge – and the wider space tech industry – helping us to reach net zero?
Our research has shown that for every 1kg of CO2 we would produce with the ForgeStar, it is preventing up to 80 Tonnes of CO2.
Creating next-generation materials in these pure environments can increase the capability of sustainable technologies as we know it. Space Forge is focused on producing compound semiconductors, leveraging the benefits of the space environment. Semiconductors manufactured in space exhibit 10x to 100x performance improvements. A 10x performance improvement enables a reduction in energy consumption by over 50%. In markets such as telecommunications, this can be over a billion pounds saved each and every year in energy bill reductions. Energy reductions such as these reduce CO2 emissions by 75%. In the UK alone with the density of our infrastructure, the annual savings could be as much as taking all petrol and diesel cars off the road in England.
What does the investment community need to do to support the deep tech and space tech industries?
To support the deep tech and space tech industries, the investment community must embrace risk and exhibit patience, understanding the longer development timelines and potential for transformative breakthroughs. Strategic partnerships should be formed to leverage expertise and resources, while advocating for clear and progressive regulations to foster innovation. Lastly, investors should educate themselves about the unique challenges and opportunities within these sectors, enabling informed decisions and effective support for startups.
What actions do you need to see from policymakers in order to make this happen?
From policymakers, we need decisive and proactive actions that create an enabling environment for achieving Net Zero. This includes setting clear and ambitious emissions reduction targets backed by robust regulatory frameworks. Incentives for research and development, coupled with funding for sustainable technologies, are vital to accelerate the transition. Moreover, collaboration with industries and international coordination will be crucial to drive innovation and ensure a smooth and equitable transition to a Net Zero future.
What is your advice to other budding entrepreneurs looking to set up businesses and raise funds?
Entrepreneurship demands a bold vision, passion, and innovative solutions. Craft a solid business plan, build a diverse team, and demonstrate early technology wins. Remain adaptable while fostering resilience in the face of challenges. We went full time on our business at the start of a global pandemic and national lockdown – if we can develop space hardware in that environment, anything is possible.
You’ll be participating in Innovation Zero in 2024 – what is bringing you to the event and what are you hoping to achieve from it?
Participating in Innovation Zero in 2024 is an exciting opportunity to connect with fellow innovators and thought leaders who are driving positive change. I'm looking forward to sharing insights from Space Forge's journey and learning from others who are passionate about sustainability and innovation. Ultimately, I aim to exchange ideas, and contribute to the collective efforts towards achieving impactful solutions for a more sustainable future.
What are your hopes and plans for the future?
We hope to see a better Earth for all of us. The reason we started this company is to reduce carbon emissions and introduce more sustainable solutions to the otherwise fossil fuel dense manufacturing environment. Space Forge’s ambition is to be the world’s first carbon negative space company.
Each technology we develop, and each mission we build – is dedicated to realising the potential of space as the ultimate manufacturing environment, one which makes space work for those of us on Earth.