The concept of manufacturing in space, or “above shoring,” is moving closer to reality.
Several startups like Redwire Space, Space Forge Ltd., and Varda Space Industries are planning to increase their activities in the next two years. In the race to be first with commercial production facilities.
Business Benefits of Microgravity Manufacture
The potential benefits to business of microgravity manufacturing include:
- Material Purity: The vacuum and zero-gravity conditions in space are able to yield materials that are purer and have fewer defects.
- Innovative Alloys: Microgravity allows for the creation of new super alloys. Materials that are not feasible to manufacture on Earth.
- Biopharmaceuticals: The unique conditions in space are considered useful for enabling the production of more effective biopharmaceuticals.
- Semiconductor Quality: The optimal production environment in space is being tested for the manufacture of higher-quality semiconductors.
- Resource Efficiency: Researchers are investigating microgravity manufacturing to explore opportunities for more efficient use of materials (and reduce waste).
- Competitive Advantage: Being among the first to utilize this new frontier is making investors excited. For creating new businesses with a significant edge over competitors.
- New Markets: The ability to produce completely new materials and products that can only be made in space will open up entirely new markets and revenue streams.
- Environmental Benefits: Harmful manufacturing processes that are shifted off-planet, will reduce pollution and damage.
- Supply Chain Innovation: Space manufacture is set to revolutionize supply chains. Especially in those industries that rely on high-quality, specialized materials.
- Collaboration Opportunities: The high cost and complexity of space missions encourage public-private partnerships; leading to more collaborative business models.
- Damage Control: High risk experimentation conducted in space will protect our planet (and all living things) from lab leaks.
Right now challenges remain. The lack of standards for in-space manufacturing, issues related to commercial air traffic control for returning payloads to Earth and risks around space debris need to addressed.
Interested to know more? In Australia The South Australian government is funding a local space manufacturing program, while the Northern Territory government is working with ELA to build and expand the Arnhem Space Centre (a commercial spaceport).