In-Space Manufacturing Prototype

We have launched a dedicated In-Space Manufacturing microsite, please visit it here (opens new tab)

Magna Parva has produced a prototype in-orbit manufacturing system that should provide a method of producing huge carbon composite 3D structures in space. A prototype COPMA system has been successfully built and tested under ‘near space’ conditions at Magna Parva’s Leicester development facility. It demonstrates the potential for the production of assemblies, equipment or even buildings from fully cured and consolidated carbon fibre materials, potentially miles in length.

Magna Parva’s innovative technology enables the deployment of extremely large, repeatable, composite structures. Radio antennae, synthetic aperture radar systems and radio / optical interferometers are examples of items that are feasible to make in space using the COPMA system.

The new precision robotic technology manufactures 3D space structures using a supply of carbon fibres and a resin that are processed by pultrusion through a heat forming die in a continuous process, producing cured carbon composite elements of extraordinary length. As the resin and materials behave differently in space, the development has included testing under both ambient atmospheric and vacuum conditions. While pultrusion itself is an established manufacturing process, it has now been scaled down to a size where the equipment can be accommodated on spacecraft, and further work is under way to advance the technical readiness of the concept.

COPMA stands for ‘Consolidated Off Planet Manufacturing and Assembly System for Large Space Structures’, and allows the fabrication in space of large structures that would be difficult to produce on Earth due to limitations at launch. Current pre-manufactured structures designed to go into space are high in mass and volume and have specific launch environment requirements. By manufacturing in space, many of these requirements are eliminated, allowing the production and deployment of extremely large composite structures. They can be made much thinner, larger and use less material than they would need if terrestrially produced, avoiding the rigours of launch.

For more information on this development please get in touch..

Successful Flight Hardware Installation

The Mercury Imaging X-ray Spectrometer (MIXS), with the optics structures designed and supplied by Magna Parva in collaboration with the University of Leicester, has been successfully installed on the BepiColombo Mercury Planetary Orbiter (MPO).

MIXS is a University of Leicester instrument, and was until his untimely death led by Professor George Fraser who is greatly missed by all at Magna Parva.

The BepiColombo mission is one of ESA’s cornerstone missions in cooperation with Japan and will provide the most complete exploration of Mercury to date. The mission will consist of two separate spacecraft that will orbit the planet. ESA is building one of the main spacecraft, the Mercury Planetary Orbiter (MPO), and the Japanese space agency JAXA will contribute the other, the Mercury Magnetospheric Orbiter (MMO). BepiColombo will help to reveal information on the composition and history of Mercury, as well as general information on the formation of the rocky planets, including the Earth.

For further information on the work Magna Parva provided for the instrument please see our project case study page.

Point of Care Sepsis Diagnostic Development Milestone Hit

The first stage of the Magna Parva led RAPPID point of care (PoC) diagnostic platform development (part funded by Innovate UK), has come to an end demonstrating that the device is capable of both simple “bed-side” blood sample preparation and rapid multiplexed detection of our first application; infectious markers found in sepsis patients.

A Potentially Life Threatening Condition

Sepsis is a life threatening condition that arises when the body’s response to an infection injures its own tissues and organs. An estimated 18 million people worldwide are affected by sepsis annually, however if it is caught early, it can be treated, but for every hour that sepsis remains undiagnosed, the risk of death increases by 8%. In the UK the economic burden is huge costing the UK/US ~£20Bn annually, currently there is no clinically useful diagnostic for sepsis and with it being responsible for more deaths than breast and bowel cancer combined, that huge gap in the market needs to be filled.

RAPPID Diagnostic Tool

RAPPID is a fully-integrated, rapid multiplexed pathogen/biomarker immunodiagnostic device for rapid detection (<15 min) of infectious diseases. The RAPPID’s diagnostic tool is being developed as a specific application version to enable point of care detection of sepsis. The technology will accept blood samples as collected by a doctor/nurse in which the blood cells will be removed and the remaining plasma concentrated for subsequent immunosensor detection, all within a single, automated, self-contained process. At the current development stage the sample preparation and biosensor are in two separate subsystems.
The assay element will allow rapid identification of the pathogen(s) responsible for the underlying infection, as well as measure levels of several key host markers. This enables identification of patient position within the complex disease cycle allowing targeted therapy and monitoring of response to treatment.
In turn, this will allow for the most appropriate treatments to be started at the earliest possible opportunity, leading to improved patient outcomes.
An improved quality of life and cost savings are brought about by reductions in spending on unnecessary medications.

 Technical Challenges

In order for the hardware to be used as a point of care diagnostic, we needed to miniaturize the sample preparation processes from large laboratory sized equipment to a low cost small consumable still capable of accepting a ~5ml blood sample and able to deliver a concentrated 50ml output to the biosensor element.
The RAPPID diagnostic tool needs to be an easy to use tool so all members of staff are able to use it efficiently. We were required to develop a tool that is simple to use, portable and provides results in less than 15 minutes. The resulting system was designed to have a single button interface.
Our project partners Cardiff University and Gwent Group worked on the assay and the extending of the shelf life of the biosensor consumable product i.e. the antibodies used for the detection system. This enabled the antibodies to remain active following the initial drying steps and extended the shelf life of the antibody consumable chip to at least 6 months at 37oC.

Putting RAPPID to the Test

The prototype hardware and preliminary testing also demonstrated successful results.
The sample preparation prototype was constructed in order to test the miniature, consumable centrifuge/concentrator with blood samples. The blood samples were metered into the processing module using a syringe pump and the centrifuge separated the plasma from cellular material. The diluted plasma was then concentrated by vacuum boiling and extracted by pipette for analysis. 40 samples were collected from patients and 15 samples were analysed using the biosensor. The Surface Plasma Resonance Biosensor prototype developed with help from Chelsea Technologies was then tested with clinical samples with the results showing that it is able to detect applicable markers from serum of sepsis patients.
Further larger scale clinical studies will need to be performed in order to demonstrate unequivocally that the device delivers clinical benefit in terms of patient outcome and health economics.

First Stage Development Success

A platform SPR immunoassay biosensor capable of reading multiple ‘assay spots’ on an optical grating has been developed in this project. The biosensor has achieved the detection of Pathogens and Biomarkers with clinical samples. A separate sample preparation system capable of producing serum from whole blood has been produced, within the current development this has not yet been integrated with the biosensor, but with further development this is possible. Both subsystems have high utility in their own right, both within and outside of the healthcare sector in addition to the potential final integrated system for both Sepsis detection and for other infectious disease applications.
The main goal of the current development was to deliver a diagnostic device for Sepsis; however during this process several other exploitable markets are also being explored. This will provide a number of opportunities for the RAPPID diagnostic tool to apply its technologies in new areas.

Platform Applications

As the development process took place three platform technologies have been developed. The Instrument Biosensor, PoC Sample Prep and Integrated System are all individually exploitable and all suited to a range of markets and fields like Biodefense, Agri-Food, Life Science and Veterinary; making this development extremely versatile. The manufacture sample processing technology is already being developed for another application as the front end of a ‘one-stop’ ‘sample-to-result’ tumour profiling device, which will generate results directly from human tissue samples within 30 minutes. The technology will accept fresh or formalin-fixed tissue, homogenise the sample, lyse the tumour cells, extract and purify nucleic acids for upstream molecular detection, all within a single, automated self-contained disposable consumable.

The SBRI programme uses the power of government procurement to drive innovation. It provides opportunities for innovative companies to engage with the public sector and gain contracts to solve specific problems. Competitions for new technologies and ideas are run on specific topics and aim to engage a broad range of organisations. SBRI enables the public sector to engage with industry during the early stages of development, supporting projects through the stages of feasibility and prototyping.

Sepsis diagnostic tool tested

Sepsis, a potentially life-threatening inflammatory condition triggered by infection, kills 1400 people every day worldwide and over 500,000 people annually in the western world. It is common, it is deadly and it is expensive; responsible for more deaths than HIV, breast and bowel cancer combined, it costs the UK/US ~£20Bn annually. However, if it is caught early, it can be treated, but for every hour that sepsis remains undiagnosed, the risk of death increases by 8%.

 The RAPPIDS disgnostic tool is a fully-integrated, rapid multiplexed pathogen/biomarker immunodiagnostic device for rapid detection (<15 min) of sepsis at the point-of-care. The technology will accept blood samples as collected by a doctor/nurse, remove blood cells, and concentrate the remaining plasma for subsequent immunosensor detection, all within a single, automated, self-contained process.

 RAPPIDS development is led by Magna Parva and is part funded by the Technology Strategy Board in collaboration with Cardiff University, AET and Chelsea Technology.

Zero-g fuel manipulation tech developed

Our Acoustic Fuel Manipulation (AFM) technology development has culminated in the achievement of controlled movement and positioning of fluids using acoustic waves. This technology could be applied to fuel on board Spacecraft to save significant mass by reducing waste fuel and ancillary fuel tank elements such as baffles.
Space missions depend upon various fuel systems to work and in microgravity environments the fuel used is dominated by capillary forces which cause them to coalesce into large droplets or cling to tank walls, which means that optimum fuel usage cannot be achieved. Magna Parva’s AFM development aim was to investigate and demonstrate methods that use acoustic streaming to trap propellant in predetermined locations. This would enable maximal fuel usage allowing optimisation of the fuel mass providing more efficient overall systems. The project achieved this through a number of tasks; acoustic modelling (a computer model examining the interaction between the acoustic waves and the liquid it’s travelling through), analysis, and implementation of a ground test bench that works at both room and cryogenic temperatures.

Using sound energy in unique developments is proven to be one of Magna Parva’s key strengths. If you would like any more information, or think we could help you, please contact us!
The technology development project was funded by the European Space Agency and supported by Cranfield University.

The video below shows the movement by using coloured dye to highlight the fluid flow.


Space windows test facility launched

Testing has completed at Magna Parva on our ESA project to develop design and verification methods for Windows for Manned Spaceflight for future spacecraft. Final testing involved testing the glass to destruction, a very loud destruction!


During an interview with ESA about the project Richard Lamoure, Magna Parva project lead engineer, recounted how early US astronauts had to insist on having windows in their space capsules. Nowadays they are regarded as essential for docking and maneuvering, spacewalk support, scientific monitoring and crew morale.

“People just like to look outside, even if what is outside is certain death,” said Richard.

Fundamentally, glass is brittle. Any initial crack could over time lead to larger fractures – and the larger the pane the more likely such flaws are likely to be present. So the study is developing a rigorous test system, including numerical modelling, bending tests where pressure is applied and acceptance tests where the candidate pane is scrutinised for cracks.

Spacecraft protection ESA contract win

Magna Parva Limited has been awarded a contract by the European Space Agency to develop novel materials for use in space which will provide improved protection against radiation and micrometeorites. The increasing need of a new low-cost hybrid material has arisen to help protect spacecraft and the safety of its crew. Astronauts and satellite electronics can suffer subtle damage from radiation in orbit and the satellites themselves can be damaged by natural interplanetary dust particles or by small pieces of orbital debris. The project will develop laminated materials which provide more protection per kilogram than current options.
Spacecraft in orbit around the Earth continually sustain damage from hyper velocity impact, colliding with micrometeoroids and orbiting debris (MMOD). Travelling at orbital velocities reaching speeds of 8km/s, the possible impact is unthinkable. To put this into perspective; ballistic objects fired from firearms on Earth travel around 0.3km/s. Whilst the majority of orbiting debris and micrometeoroids are small enough to not be a worry, a need for protection is established. A small fraction of the MMOD population is large enough to cause potentially catastrophic damage. Large objects in orbit around Earth are tracked such that space craft can be manoeuvred and collisions can be avoided.
The second motive behind the development of the ‘Low Cost Hybrid Materials’ is radiation. In the space environment radiation takes the form of energetic particles; these originate from supernova explosions and other high energy events outside the solar system. There are also Solar Energetic Particles which originate from the sun. The Earth’s magnetosphere blocks out the majority of radiation, but at increasing altitudes, and beyond Earth orbit, exposure levels increase. The risk of collision with MMOD and increasing exposure to radiation needs to be mitigated.
Magna Parva will be supported by the expertise from a number of high technology companies and universities from across the UK, showing the strength of this sector. Director Andy Bowyer said “This provides an exciting step for the company into a new business area. The materials we develop in this contract will be particularly useful in deep space missions such as those planned for the Orion capsule”. Magna Parva is supported by their subcontractors Fluid Gravity, TISICS, RadMod and Kallisto.