By Trevor Goding ’24 Associate
When we think of space, our minds may go to Neil Armstrong, the first man on the moon, or most recently, Jeff Bezos and Richard Branson. Yet, space travel is not going to be an activity of the uber-rich for much longer as manufacturing may leave our Earth’s atmosphere in the coming years. Space can offer microgravity conditions to manufacture materials and products that are impossible to produce currently with Earth’s measure of gravity. Materials behave differently when gravity is greatly reduced, so research is being conducted into how these changes may aid in areas such as water and energy conservation.
NASA has provided a $2M grant to Cedars-Sinai Hospital to scientists who are researching the possibility of improving stem-cell production in space’s microgravity conditions. The theory is that less gravity can increase the efficiency of stem-cell production by being able to produce more than what can presently be done on Earth. Currently, large batches of stem cells are grown in 2D culture conditions. This creates a challenge as the human body produces stem cells in culture conditions similar to one that is 3D, such as in space[MG1] . Arun Sharma, Ph.D., who is leading the research, is the first to test such a theory on the International Space Station.
In South Wales, Space Forge is at the frontier of the industry The company is building a returnable satellite for producing new materials in hopes it sparks a new industrial revolution. The Defense Technology Exploitation Programme (DTEP), run by the UK government, granted $623,000 to Space Forge to fund its mission to find answers to current defense problems. The company also hopes to use these innovative materials in creating sustainable technologies aimed at helping the current climate crisis. Space Forges has a total raised to date of $10.87M after closing its first seed round in January 2022.
In July 2023, startup company Varda Space Industries sent its product, coined a “space drug factory”, which is a capsule created to make drug crystals with the use of robots in microgravity conditions into space. The startup reported it was successful in generating crystals for Ritonavir, a drug used in treating HIV. There is one major flaw to Varda’s success; its capsule has been denied reentry to Earth due to its failure to obtain the correct FAA licenses before launch. [MG2] The trip still validates the theory of how in-space manufacturing can provide benefits across varying industries but highlights the need to follow regulatory rules in a highly restrictive space. This may seem simple at surface level but currently, five different agencies have the power to regulate in-space manufacturing in the United States. Many companies are forced to jump through hoops to get the correct approval needed, and as seen with Varda, one misstep can become fatal to the mission.
The space, no pun intended, is still growing as the technology necessary to have this done at a large scale is in developmental stages. More time has to be allowed to validate research into these novice materials being produced along with the technologies they can be utilized in. MarketsandMarkets reports the In-Space Manufacturing industry is projected to reach a valuation of $4.6 billion by 2030. In the years between 2030 and 2040, the industry is expected to have a CAGR of 29.7%, growing the industry to a valuation of $62.8 billion. By the end of the decade, society will not only have manufacturing on this terrestrial plane but above the atmosphere as well. The benefits in-space manufacturing can offer make it an attractive industry to keep an eye on.
Trevor is a Senior from Londonderry, New Hampshire pursuing a degree in Business Administration with an option in Accounting. Trevor spent this last summer as an audit intern working in Boston, MA for RSM. In his time there, he focused on performing audit procedures from the planning stages all the way to testing preselected transactions to ensure they meet the correct accounting guidelines. This experience resulted in Trevor receiving a full-time offer to return after graduation in May, which he has accepted. On campus, Trevor is the Vice President of the honors accounting society Beta Alpha Psi, a Dean’s Ambassador for Paul College, and a campus ambassador for RSM. In this upcoming year, Trevor is excited to make the most of his time left in The Fund!