Anti-cancer drugs and super fiber optics: 2023, the challenge of the first factory in space

Ceo Space Cargo at Adnkronos: “It was born in Turin with Thales Alenia Space, in orbit in cycles of about 2 months. Products made in the absence of gravity revolution for the benefit of the citizens of the Earth”.

Anti-cancer drugs, ultra-innovative optical fibers. But not only. Also pluripotent stem cells, targeted drug therapies. Such complex products can be made better and faster in space, in zero gravity, and it is the challenge that from 2023 will begin to prepare Rev-1the first space factory entirely built in Italy, in Turin, by Space Cargo Unlimited, European company based in Luxembourg,
and from Thales Alenia Space Italy. “We are delighted to be able to work in Italy with a partner such as Thales Alenia Space Italia and with Leonardo and already in 2023 there will be the first 10 hires in your country to implement Rev-1” the CEO and co-founder of Space anticipates to Adnkronos Cargo Unlimited, Nicolas Gaume.

The French multinational and the
joint venture between Thales (67%) and Leonardo (33%) have just signed the initial tranche of a contract for the design and construction of the first orbiting factory and the agreement also provides for the opening of a Space Cargo Unlimited branch in Turin. Serial entrepreneurs, passionate about space, Gaume says he is certain that “Rev-1 will make the difference in the creation of productions with a very high technological and innovative rate” and, he explains, “the products made in the absence of gravity will be a revolution for the benefit of the citizens of the Land”.

In the orbiting workshop it will be possible to ‘manufacture’ “complex products to obtain on Earth, above all in a short time, but – observes Gaume – difficult to create even on the International Space Station where “the presence of astronauts requires very costly infrastructures and safety protocols high” and with repercussions on production times. The launch of the first Rev1 vehicle is expected at the end of 2025 and the horizons it promises to open have the flavor of science fiction. “We estimate that our space factory will be at work in space at cycles of about 2 months and then return to Earth” indicates the CEO. In the ‘production lines’ of Rev-1 there will be, among others, the creation of biomolecules and biomaterials for clinical applications or engineered fabrics to treat, for example, severe burns A sector which, alone, covers a potential market estimated at 750 million dollars by 2030.

Space vines grown in microgravity, new agriculture in orbit against climate change

Rev-1 will also produce ‘super optical fibers’ made with Zblan fluoride glass, which has an estimated market of $839 million in 2030. “The fiber produced in microgravity conditions is free from material defects ” warns Gaume that, in addition to the long list of products that can be made in the space ‘plant’, he also indicates the production of “small biodegradable capsules for the targeted release of drugs: a potential market of 1.43 billion dollars estimated by 2030.

“These are drugs that are extremely difficult to produce on Earth while in the absence of gravity they are obtained more quickly” highlights the CEO of Space Cargo Unlimited, the player who led the Wise mission, the first complete commercial Leo research program on the future of agriculture and of viticulture in anticipation of climate change on Earth. From this experience, says the manager, “vines were born taller than those that grow on Earth, with shapes adapted to the absence of gravity” and from these plants “we will obtain ‘space’ wine”.

“Our mission – Gaume reiterates – is space used for the benefit of the Earth and in space we can produce a lot thanks to the absence of gravity. Because the absence of gravity helps materials to combine with each other while on Earth the force of gravity makes this process complex. Furthermore, if we think of the electronics sector, there are no contaminations in space, there is no need for ‘clean rooms'”. But the CEO is also keen to underline that the birth of the first space factory in Turin is “demonstration of how much we were impressed by Italy’s leadership in the space sector. We were very impressed by the activity of the Italian Space Agency, very intrigued by specific space sectors developed in Italy that make your country a global player” he assures.

“Attracted by the Italian entrepreneurial spirit, your effervescent and innovative SMEs”

Nicolas Gaume underlines the strategic aspect of our ‘orbiting’ made in Italy. “The Italian entrepreneurial spirit, the activities of Italian SMEs – which are indeed family-based but very effervescent and innovative – captured me”. “All of this has particularly impressed us” adds Nicolas Gaume who is already looking at the steps to take in the coming year. “The opening of our headquarters in Turin in the coming weeks will allow us to position ourselves in the beating heart of the Italian space ecosystem – which is one of the most dynamic in Europe – and will allow us to work on the development of Rev-1 in close collaboration with Thales Alenia Space, a truly leading European company in the construction of space infrastructures for over 40 years”.

Space Cargo Unlimited plans to commercially operate a fleet of cargo vehicles capable of returning autonomously – i.e. without crew on board – to Earth with the aim of exploiting the unique potential of microgravity for commercial applications on our planet’s markets. The Rev-1 pressurized vehicle will therefore be a real orbiting space factory and will be used for specific missions in particular sectors, underlines the manager again, an entrepreneur used to ‘doing business’ all over the world and who, among other things, he is also executive chairman and co-founder of Orbite, operator of the Spaceflight Gateway Complex due to open in 2025 in the United States.

The Spaceflight Gateway Complex will be an astronaut training complex offering luxury accommodations, dining and recreational activities for commercial astronauts, their friends and families. In short, for Nicolas Gaume the future of man’s life in space also starts from all of this and Space Cargo Unlimited is no coincidence that it has put down solid roots in Europe where it has several hubs including some in Germany, a research center in France and now is ready to open its own ‘branch’ also in Italy, in Turin. “I love Italy. When I founded a startup in China, I met Italian entrepreneurs in every location of the Asian giant I went to: your made in Italy has very few rivals” Nicolas articulates in no uncertain terms. (by Andreana d’Aquino)