Jakarta, CNBC Indonesia – Human colonization of space seems to be expanding in the next few years. According to analyst projections, outer space will be used for manufacturing processes.
According to partner at McKinsey, Ilan Rozenkopf, pharmaceutical, semiconductor (chip), beauty, health, and food products may also be produced in outer space. Its value is predicted to reach US$ 10 billion in 2030, quoted from CNBC International, Tuesday (22/8/2023).
Outer space offers a unique environment for product research and development. This is because the radiation levels and zero-gravity conditions there allow companies to find new manufacturing methods or materials that are not possible on Earth.
This practice is not entirely new. The International Space Station (ISS) has hosted several experiments from academia, government agencies, and commercial customers on such things as growing human tissue, making purer semiconductors, and developing new or improved drugs.
In the 2024 fiscal year budget, President Joe Biden even allocated US$5 million for NASA to continue research related to cancer on the ISS.
However, access to the ISS has always been competitive and interest in it is growing. Currently, several startups in the aerospace sector see opportunities to meet the demand for manufacturing in space. One of them is by building a space factory collectively.
Drug Manufacturing in Space
One such company is Varda Space Industries in Southern California. Varda’s mission is to help pharmaceutical companies improve their drugs or create new drug therapies by taking advantage of the unique properties of space, then returning those ingredients back to Earth.
Varda’s business focus is a phenomenon known as protein crystallization. This occurs when a supersaturated protein solution essentially evaporates to form a solid, so that scientists can study protein structure.
Understanding the crystal structure of proteins can help scientists get a better idea of disease mechanisms, identify drug targets, and optimize drug design.
As a result, the drugs produced can have fewer side effects and are more effective at curing disease.
Research conducted over many years has shown that protein crystals grown in space are of much higher quality than those grown on Earth.
The company’s business plan is not to manufacture all the drugs in space. However, it only makes up the main pharmaceutical active ingredient, or the part that is responsible for the therapeutic effect of a drug.
Chip Production in Space
Meanwhile in Cardiff, Wales, Space Forge is designing its own space factory to produce the next generation of semiconductors.
Space Forge’s goal is to manufacture semiconductor substrates using materials other than silicon to manufacture more efficient and higher performing chips.
“This next-generation material will allow us to create efficiencies we’ve never seen before,” said Andrew Parlock, Space Forge’s managing director of operations.
“We’re talking about a 10 to 100 X increase in semiconductor performance.” he continued.
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