A two-year contract signed with the European Space Agency (ESA) will enable Space Forge to demonstrate its reusable, suitcase-sized vehicle that will be capable of remaining in low Earth orbit for up to six months before returning safely to Earth.

Scheduled to launch in 2022, the ForgeStar system will provide a microgravity environment to be used as a testing platform for in-orbit validation/demonstration of new materials and new pharmaceutical compounds. The first ForgeStar vehicle to be tested will be capable of carrying a few kilograms on any one return mission, though U.K.-based Space Forge plans to scale up the vehicle and increase this tenfold in future versions.

The microgravity-on-demand service from Space Forge is expected to complement the capabilities of Space Rider, a larger reusable space plane with a payload capacity of around 800 kg, which has been in development by ESA for nearly a decade.

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