Space Forge, a UK-based company, has developed an innovative satellite reentry system for the recovery and reuse of its in-space manufacturing spacecraft, TechCrunch reported .
Space Forge, established in 2018, is the sole provider of the relaunchable ForgeStar satellite, which specialises in super materials manufacturing. The ForgeStar satellite possesses soft-descent capabilities and high-precision landing features.
ForgeStar is designed to achieve a gentle landing utilising a new heat shield and a water vehicle, according to TechCrunch.
This will be a massive move away from old technology being used even today. This was the ablative shield. Previously used by Mercury, Gemini, and Apollo spacecraft, an ablative heat shield both cools and protects mechanical components from extreme temperatures. SpaceX Dragon 2 and Orion spacecraft also currently utilise this technology. However, the ablative heat shield requires replacement after each mission.
On the other side, Space Forge has developed the “Pridwen” heat shield, which is sufficiently large to radiate the heat generated during atmospheric reentry, as per the report. Constructed from a high-temperature alloy, this shield is designed to fold during launch and unfold upon the spacecraft’s return to Earth.
“It’s old technology. The idea of ablative heat shields, something that eats itself as it returns, it’s [1950s] technology,” Andrew Bacon, co-founder and chief technology officer of Space Forge told TechCrunch.
Another component of the system is an unmanned water vehicle called “Fielder,” which manoeuvres beneath ForgeStar to execute a soft landing. This approach aims to minimise stress on sensitive payloads and reduce the need for spacecraft refurbishment.
Initially, ForgeStar, a small class vehicle deployable in orbit for up to six months, will focus on semiconductor, alloy, and biological material production.
Following the unsuccessful launch attempt on Virgin Orbit’s mission in January, Space Forge plans to test the reentry capabilities with the ForgeStar-1A satellite later this year. Virgin’s launcher experienced an anomaly and failed to reach orbit.
The company intends to launch the debut mission without any customer payloads. However, neither the launch date nor the launch provider has been disclosed.