A revolution in space manufacturing is coming. Enabled by cheaper launch costs, companies are scrambling to take advantage of easier access to the benefits space offers as a manufacturing environment. These include a constant vacuum, near absolute zero temperatures, and a lack of any significant gravity. These features would enable easier processing and manufacturing of hundreds of products, from pharmaceuticals to metal alloys. The tricky part is getting them back down to Earth, where they can be used.
A company based in the UK recently revealed what they think is a viable solution for that. Space Forge, which is developing a reusable manufacturing platform for use in space, recently discussed their Pridwen heat shield. The most remarkable thing about this new heat shield is it’s reusable.
Most people involved in some product development have had a lousy supply chain experience at least once in their careers. It would be so much easier if all the parts needed to make your product were available nearby and didn’t take much effort to get to you. That is especially true if you happen to be making your product in space – one of the most significant hurdles to developing a fully-fledged space economy is the difficulty (i.e., cost) of getting those products into space.
NASA knows this and realizes that the ability to assemble and even build some of its missions directly in space would be far superior to its current methodology of building and testing everything on Earth, then launching it into space and hoping it doesn’t blow up on the way. That is a pipe dream for now, but NASA can make dreams a reality if it sets its collective mind to it. It has certainly put its mind to making things in space and has taken the first step toward doing that by setting up a new consortium for In-space Service Assembly and Manufacturing (ISAM).