The bootstrapped space firm which brought vines and wine to space, plans to grow its Luxembourg team to focus on a major space manufacturing project.
Like a sommelier with a good vintage wine, entrepreneurs must wait for market maturity to enjoy the fruits of their labours. And so it was the case for SpaceCargo Unlimited (SCU) founder Nicolas Gaume who is pursuing the company’s in-space manufacturing dream almost ten years after forming the company.
After sending red wine to the International Space Station as part of an aging experiment and facilitating self-guided evolution research into the effects of the space environment on 320 vines, in 2025, the company plans to deploy the world’s first floating space factory, REV1. “We want to be a truly European solution,” said Gaume, adding: “We want to provide a solution for industrial companies interested in making in space.”
In December 2022, SCU announced the signing of the first phase contract with aerospace manufacturer Thales Alenia Space, and the opening of a subsidiary in Turin.
The space factory will be dedicated to missions in biotechnology, pharmaceuticals, agriculture and new materials. The idea is to enable other players to leverage the effect of microgravity on complex biological systems, in the same way, that the vine research led to new vine variants which showed greater resistance to fungi and mildew.
The pressurised REV1 facility offers laboratory conditions and clean rooms needed for this kind of research and manufacture. The first of an entire fleet will be reusable for up to 20 missions and able to carry payloads for between two and three months in space. SCU will own and operate the platform and operate a fleet of uncrewed cargo vehicles capable of offering real-time monitoring.
“Today when you send something to the ISS you will not see if it has worked or not until it comes back. We will have payload mission specialists who will monitor and manage automated processes,” said Gaume, adding: “That’s a very exciting function for the mission system.”
The first REV1 vehicle is expected to be launched from Europe in late 2025. The operations and command centre will be in Luxembourg, where the team is expected to add 15 new members, including senior leadership, sales, and mission management roles during the summer. The scale-up is in the process of fundraising.
It may be that SCU will be able to toast the launch with the first of the new varieties of wine developed from the vine research it facilitated, the first bottles from which are expected to go on sale in 2024.