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This spacecraft system could bring “super materials” back to Earth

A British startup has unveiled a unique system for returning spacecraft to Earth.

The company called Space forge, developed the technology to provide a low-cost and sustainable way to reuse satellites. Ultimately, the startup wants the system to support production in space, which can produce materials that cannot be made on Earth.

These “supermaterials” have transformative potential for electronics, pharmaceuticals and alloys. Unfortunately, it is currently painfully complex and costly to return them to Earth.

To solve this problem, Space Forge has developed two separate components: ahover-net named Fielder and a heat shield named Pridwen.

Named after King Arthur’s legendary shield, Pridwen is made from a flexible alloy that can withstand harsh temperatures. It is also reusable, unlike conventional “ablative” heat shields, which have to be replaced after each flight.

To fit into a launcher, Pridwen folds down to a compact size. To protect the cargo on the return journey, the origami-style heat shield expands. Joshua Western, the co-founder of Space Forge, describes the system as “Mary Poppins but from space.”

Pridwen prototypes