Starbridge Invests in Made In Space

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Starbridge Venture Capital recently made an investment in space-based manufacturing company Made In Space (MIS). Through MIS’s combination of a strong management team and substantial market potential, they have established themselves as the leading developer of in-space manufacturing techniques including 3D printing, processing of unique materials in microgravity, and automated assembly of large structures - three essential technologies for space development and manufacturing. Over MIS’s eight years of existence, this is their first round of outside investment which will be used to advance their products to market.

 Astronaut Barry Wilmore with a 3D-printed ratchet aboard the International Space Station — the first part 3D printed in space. Image courtesy of NASA.  

Astronaut Barry Wilmore with a 3D-printed ratchet aboard the International Space Station — the first part 3D printed in space. Image courtesy of NASA.  

Made In Space was founded in 2010 by a team of experienced space experts and key 3D printing developers. The team has carefully grown the company over the past eight years by earning a combination of government and commercial research grants. MIS designed and built the first 3D printers for use on the International Space Station and the first commercial in-space fiber optic pulling device for creating nearly flawless ZBLAN-based fiber optics in zero-gravity.

We have tracked the company’s progress over the past few years and have been impressed with each milestone completed. MIS’s view of the space industry and their role in it matches Starbridge’s long term strategy. From MIS’s website:

Made In Space is primarily concerned with how the unique traits of the space environment such as persistent microgravity and vacuum conditions can be harnessed to offer new commercial solutions. By manufacturing and assembling structures on orbit, rather than on the planet's surface, we unlock incredible design possibilities for extending the life of current on-orbit assets or entirely new structures. By pulling fiber in microgravity, we address one of the most critical barriers to perfect ZBLAN on the surface–gravity-caused crystallization. By setting up a prototyping platform on the ISS National Lab, we give researchers the ability to prototype tools and designs in the environment of space with short iteration cycles.

Space has many unique properties that force us to think outside of the box. In many cases it is one of the most interdisciplinary technology sectors. That approach plus the inherent opportunities of space itself creates incredible new opportunities.

MIS’s developmental work on ultra high quality ZBLAN fiber optics on the International Space Station (ISS) is ready to move into its next stage of production. Traction with customers, such as Corning and Thorlabs, as well as fast approaching theoretical limits of terrestrially produced fiber optics suggest an industry wide transition to space produced fiber optics for key long haul networks and other high value networks.

 Archinaut assembling an extremely large communications antenna. 

Archinaut assembling an extremely large communications antenna. 

A key consideration for a venture capital fund is participation in future rounds and the scale of the company’s subsequent growth. MIS’s other lines of business: in-vacuum additive manufacturing, in-space spacecraft assembly/servicing, and assembly of extremely large structures, all have potential growth similar to the fiber optic business. We look forward to participating with MIS in their future growth!