Space firm behind pioneering ‘shoebox-sized laboratory’ comes to Leicester

Posted by: Jamie Sharp - Posted on:

The creators of a shoebox-sized laboratory which enables experiments to be carried out in space are now working with Space Park Leicester.

Frontier Space Technologies’ SpaceLab is designed to host numerous experiments in microgravity and the firm aims to launch its first on-orbit demonstrations next year.

The technology will make space research and development far more accessible and affordable to industry and the firm’s logistics and technology innovation will cut the time it takes businesses to get their research into space from around five years to as little as a month for Frontier Space Technologies’ repeat customers. 

This has huge potential for a variety of sectors, including the pharmaceutical and manufacturing industries, as they will not have to wait as long to see a potential return on their investment into space research.

Frontier Space Technologies has also become the latest company to be accepted on the European Space Agency – Business Incubation Centre for the United Kingdom (ESA-BIC UK) programme at Space Park Leicester, the University of Leicester’s pioneering £100 million science and innovation park.

Frontier Space Technologies Co-founder and Chief Technology Officer Mateusz Zalasiewicz said: “The market we’re targeting is rapidly growing – space has only recently turned commercial, and commercial space biotech has huge potential for human therapeutic innovation, so this is an exciting time for us.

“The advice and support we receive from ESA-BIC was one of the big draws of the programme; we’ve already attended very useful events and we’re keen to start using all the technical support available to us.

“We’re delighted to join the eco-system at Space Park Leicester. Leicester is the perfect place for us because it has a growing space economy and there are a lot of life sciences and pharmaceutical companies in the city.”

Carrying out experiments in space is attractive to business because of its microgravity.

Mateusz explained: “If you want to research or manufacture new medicines you often use protein crystals during the process. 

“On Earth, if you try to make large crystals they tend to be imperfect due to gravity gradients causing sedimentation. The crystals you get in microgravity tend to be much larger and much purer, and that’s a major research benefit. 

“It’s the same for other industries – if you want to manufacture semi-conductors crystal of an extremely high purity you can do that in microgravity to a better degree. 

“It really depends on the industry, and what you’re trying to do, but in general the absence of gravity, and also access to space background radiation for certain things, is extremely useful and you can’t really replicate that on Earth.”

Fellow Co-founder and CEO Dr Aqeel Shamsul added: “Lots of businesses aren’t aware you can do this in space or they think it’s going to be expensive. The paradigm shift is that this is all becoming much more accessible now and access to this unique environment can significantly improve products and processes here on Earth.”

Vinay Patel, Head of Commercial and Innovation at Space Park Leicester, said: “Frontier Space Technologies is playing a vital role in opening up space experimentation to industry.

“We’re very excited about the work they’re doing and are thrilled they’ve joined us in Leicester.”