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Virgin Orbit to launch first Welsh satellite From UK spaceport

Virgin Orbit and European in-space manufacturing tech start-up Space Forge announced an agreement March 9, 2022, to launch the first satellite developed in Wales in summer 2022.

In an historic moment for United Kingdom space, the satellite will be launched as part of a broader joint UK-US mission to open the country’s first domestic space port in summer 2022 out of Spaceport Cornwall in Newquay, Cornwall.

“We at Virgin Orbit are delighted to have been chosen to move Space Forge forward in their space journey as we look forward to our inaugural Cornwall launch. Space Forge is joining the growing community of space innovators advancing space technologies for the betterment of our world,” said Virgin Orbit CEO Dan Hart. “Their commitment to sustainability builds a foundation for future growth in the industry that we at Virgin Orbit are proud to be part of.”

With shared values of democratizing space and pioneering responsive and responsible launch technologies, the synergy between Virgin Orbit and Cardiff, Wales,-based Space Forge’s ethos makes this the ideal marriage for initial launch from the UK. This, coupled with Spaceport Cornwall’s ambitions to become a world leader in responsible launch will offer a real-world example of a global shift in environmental space practice – from sustainable on the ground operations, to horizontal lower impact launch technologies, to in-orbit services minimizing the environmental impacts of manufacturing.

Space Forge is on a mission to make space work for humanity – seeking to harness the power of microgravity, offering an on demand service to advance the expansion of the market for premium research and development applications.

“We’re thrilled to be making UK history with our first launch,” said Joshua Western, Space Forge CEO. “We will demonstrate the use of space for good through in-space manufacturing and reliable return and it’s brilliant that both Virgin Orbit and Spaceport Cornwall share our ambitions. This is the start of a great collaboration and we are so excited to see where it goes.”

Space Forge recently announced that, along with partners, it is 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. This inaugural mission will see Space Forge’s ForgeStar-0 platform launched for the first time and will test future return from space technology.

Aiming to unlock the next steps on the path to market expansion, dedicated in-space manufacturing, coupled with proof of reliable return, will allow Space Forge to leverage the benefits of the space environment, namely: microgravity, vacuum, and temperature, to create products impossible to manufacture on Earth.

Their focus is on 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 certain materials in space could reduce CO2 emissions by 75 percent — the equivalent to removing all petrol cars from the UK.

“Launch from Cornwall is the chance to set the bar for the global space industry,” said Melissa Thorpe, head of Spaceport Cornwall. “Leading with companies like Space Forge, who are innovating in the responsible use of space, is key to this next iteration of space exploration.

It’s amazing to see our partners Virgin Orbit select customers who share our ambitions in this area and we can’t wait to show the world how this can be done.”

“The UK is set to become the first nation in Europe to offer small satellite launch, as we become one of the most attractive space economies in the world,” said Dr. Paul Bate, CEO of the UK Space Agency.

“Space Forge is an innovative, fast-growing company and their agreement with Virgin Orbit demonstrates how all regions of the UK are playing a key role in our ambition to create a thriving small satellite launch market. In-space manufacturing harnesses the benefits of the space environment to create materials far superior to those we can produce on Earth, which can be used to speed up electric car charging or improve the lifetime of aircraft engines.

“This is a huge moment for Space Forge to be part of the first satellite launch from the UK and I wish them all the best, along with Spaceport Cornwall and Virgin Orbit.”

Space Forge Ltd is a UK start-up on a mission to lead the clean industrial revolution by harnessing space. The company is developing fully returnable satellites that are designed for manufacturing next generation super materials in-space. In creating a reliable return, Space Forge will advance the expansion of the microgravity market for premium research and development applications by lowering the barriers to entry. The company is focused on research and development initiatives where dedicated return from the space environment can add a significant benefit, or overcome obstacles found terrestrially, to unlock new value and innovation.

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