In the field of space, the French lack ideas or initiatives. After the Zéphyr micro-rocket (Latitude), a minivan carrying small satellites (Exotrail), a reusable cargo spaceship (The Exploration Company) and a solar-powered sail (Gama), it’s time for REV1, the ‘first factory in space’. .
The project was presented by start-up Space Cargo Unlimited (SCU) during the NewSpace Europe conference in Luxembourg on Thursday, October 27. It is a fully automated vehicle in which companies can manufacture new products. Placed in orbit 350 or 450 kilometers above Earth, the 4.5-meter-wide Thales Alenia Space-designed capsule will remain in space for several months before returning. The first flight is scheduled for late 2025.
“In the absence of Earth’s gravity, you would have more of the same stuff”, SCU CEO and co-founder Nicolas Gaume explains, taking the example of alloys, that currently, the heavier metal goes down and the lighter goes up. A similar demand for fluorine-based optical fiber, “Hundred times more conductive than conventional fiber, but very difficult to manufacture on Earth”.
Many fields of interest
This weightless environment is desirable for the development of stem cells or cosmetics “Fine Crystallization”. However, it was in agriculture that, within the framework of the WISE project, the first experiments took place, with the National Space Research Center and the Institute of Vine and Wine Sciences in Bordeaux and aimed at identifying grape varieties. Resistant to global warming.
Three hundred and twenty vines – half cabernet, half merlot – thus spent ten months aboard the International Space Station, locked in a dark box maintained at 2°C to 3°C. “Gravity is the backbone of life on Earth, so its absence left them in complete depression, The Bordeaux entrepreneur explains. This allowed us to gauge their reaction and adaptation.” Compared to the same box on Earth. The idea is to see how these plants perform once they are replanted.
Before this floating factory project in low orbit, Nicholas Com made a name for himself in video games. In 1990, at the age of 19, he started Callisto, which went bankrupt twelve years later. Since then, he has built various companies on the web before venturing into space in 2014. “This is my eighth start.”Referring to these fifties, manufacturing in orbit heralded the next industrial revolution.