Metalysis–ESA Grand Challenge launched
An ESA Grand Challenge worth €500 000 sponsored by UK’s Metalysis, will reward new technology that will help us to create metals from resources found on other planets.
The Challenge is part of ESA’s Space 4.0 commitment to competitions that create new European entrepreneurs, innovation-led start-ups and new ventures. It is the product of a consultation process with ESA’s 22 Member States and will run until 2021.
The competition was launched during the Space day at this year’s Farnborough Airshow with an agreement signed between Dr. Dion Vaughan, CEO at Metalysis, and ESA’s Director General, Jan Wörner.
Metalysis in South Yorkshire, has spent more than a decade developing and scaling up its electrochemical technology; a process that converts refined oxides and ores directly into valuable metal alloy powders used in 3D printing for aerospace, automotive and high-value manufacturing.
Metalysis’ technology is also gaining ground as a means to extract and produce valuable metals in space – in-situ resource utilisation.
The Challenge invites competitors to devise process-monitoring systems that can slot into Metalysis’ electrochemical cells on Earth, and accompany the technology into space.
Would-be participants can apply through ESA’s Grand Challenge website. They are invited to develop entries, based on Metalysis’ electrochemical technology, to support sustainable operations and outer planetary exploration from long-term space settlements.
To establish long-term settlements on other planets requires the ability to utilise the basic materials that exist at a given destination and this is referred to as in-situ resource utilisation or ISRU. ISRU can lower the cost of space exploration and cargo requirements.
Commercial enterprises attracted by the space race, aim to reduce the costs of planetary exploration. Increasing competition fosters new concepts and creates new international, cross-border collaboration.
“We are very pleased to launch the Metalysis–ESA Grand Challenge. ESA’s commitment supporting the development of transferable technologies and their application, with economic benefits on Earth and in space, is a promising journey for Metalysis to participate in as we approach our next phase of scale-up in the UK," commented Metalysis CEO, Dr. Dion Vaughan, “We look forward to engaging with Challenge contestants and showcasing how truly innovative the European scientific community can be.”
“This competition addresses the needs of terrestrial industries while contributing to the development of the space economy and of commercial partnerships for space exploration," added ESA Director General, Jan Wörner, "This is a bright and bold example of implementation of ESA’s vision for Space 4.0; where space and non-space industries join forces to foster innovation and address common cross-sectorial challenges in Europe.”