The UK Ministry of Defence (MoD) is investing in the development of what is claimed to be the world’s first in-space manufacturing platforms that can be used to develop technology used in military radars and frontline battlefield communications capability.

In a 6 November release the MoD announced that Space Forge, based in South Wales, had been awarded £499,000 ($613,000) as part of a collaborative project with Northrop Grumman under the  Defence Technology Exploitation Programme (DTEP).

According to the release the manufacturing included semiconductors, which are crucial components of radars and frontline battlefield communications systems. The process would benefit from the sterile conditions and extreme cold of vacuum, resulting in “pure” materials.

Part of a wider scheme, DTEP funding is designed to support small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) across the UK to develop innovative materials, technologies and processes to enhance defence supply chains, the MoD said.

Demonstrating the UK government’s commitment to working with small businesses across Defence, the Minister for Defence Procurement, James Cartlidge, also hosted a range of British small businesses in Cardiff today who are paving the way in new age defence capabilities.

UK Minister for Defence Procurement, James Cartlidge, visiting an industry event in Cardiff, said: “The work taking place at Space Forge, and other SMEs, is paramount to the success of our future operations.

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“We are committed to supporting their endeavours to ensure our defence capabilities remain at the forefront of technological innovation.”

The MoD said that During his visit, Cartlidge engaged in discussions with Space Forge to gain insight into the latest developments in space capabilities.

However, the UK currently lacks an indigenous space launch capability, with industry and government relying on commercial operators in the US and Europe for space access. Long-awaited plans to create a domestic space access capability took a blow in January this year when Virgin Orbit failed to deploy a satellite in low Earth orbit, with the company subsequently ceasing operations.