Gravitilab and Manchester University are working to replicate a lab experiment in space, which involves heating up material for a spacecraft.

The startup Gravitilab in Kansas is creating new testing opportunities in microgravity, the weightlessness experienced in space that can cause anything we take up there to function differently than it does on Earth.

According to CEO Rob Adlard, all of humanity’s major problems—including climate change, world hunger, problems with healthcare, and in our industry, space debris—need to be studied and tested in microgravity.

Does using crystals, jets, and magnets make cooling more environmentally friendly?

And the market is seriously congested. In actuality, it’s not a real market at the moment. Therefore, we’re cracking this open wide with some new hardware and a fresh perspective.

Practically speaking, Gravitilab, based in Norfolk, borrows a customer’s research experiment or piece of industrial equipment, places it in microgravity, and then returns it with information about what happened.

The startup is creating two products to achieve this. The first is a UAV called LOUIS that can create some microgravity for a few seconds without entering space (you might have seen this in the news a couple of months ago).

The second is the ISAAC suborbital launch vehicle, which will send payloads into space for a brief period of time before returning them.

Gravity distortion

In a way, it’s funny. You believe that everything that occurs on Earth is entirely natural and intended to be this way. However, gravity actually causes pollution. And it prevents us from understanding what the physics is actually like, says Adlard.

“Boundary conditions, hydrostatic pressure, and sedimentation are absent in microgravity. All three of those things are necessary for everything to function properly. and what transpires is actually quite unexpected. The outcome was really impossible to predict.

Even chemical processes can vary depending on the environment.

Adlard quipped, “Until you’re doing it in microgravity, you’re only doing chemistry, and then you’re doing physics.”

Supporting academic research and the developing satellite industry are two opportunities here.

Gravitilab and Manchester University are working to replicate a lab experiment in space, which involves heating up material for a spacecraft. This requires extensive payload development to make the material flyable.

Nanosatellites have a high failure rate of up to 50%, making it crucial to test their handling before deployment to avoid space debris and headaches. With 1,000 startups developing innovative hardware, there is a need to address the supply chain for the space economy.

Rethinking suborbital rockets

In order to address the need for businesses to enter the space economy, Adlard co-founded Gravitilab Startup in 2018. Adlard, who has a background in aeronautics and space engineering, looked into new uses for current technology, especially miniature and suborbital rockets.

He emphasised the potential of suborbital rockets in the space economy by pointing out how they have recently become more significant as stepping stones to other technologies.

“Would it be useful to be able to send something into space for a short period of time and return it the same day? If you asked anyone in the industry, everyone would exclaim, “Yeah, my goodness, that’s amazing, what have you invented? ”

The fact that it is a suborbital rocket is known to most people, but no one had ever considered it in that way.

When Adlard first met co-founder James Kilpatrick, who is currently the chair and CFO of the company, the two of them founded Gravitilab under the name Raptor Aerospace. After determining a clear course of action for the business, they changed their name to one that more accurately reflected their goals.

The Gravilab team

Gravilab’s UAV, LOUIS, is set for an official launch this summer. The development took 18 months to obtain permission for its first flight, and it took the company 18 months to develop the rest of the system. The payload inside LOUIS experiences the inverse of the vehicle’s acceleration. The startup is also developing a variant called JACQUES, which provides partial gravity for customers seeking to simulate gravity on the Moon or Mars.

ISAAC, a suborbital rocket developed by the startup, is a longer-term endeavour. Its engine is currently undergoing development, and a test flight is scheduled for January of the following year.


Gravitilab, an early-stage spacetech startup, has raised £2.2 million and received a £400,000 grant from the UK Space Agency. They are now raising a £5 million round to accelerate their R&D phase and commercialize, with a pipeline of customers lined up.


By creating larger vehicles for larger payloads and longer periods of weightlessness, Adlard hopes to help Gravitilab enter the microgravity market.

He also wants to address how the space industry affects the environment by creating a carbon-neutral fuel source for the hybrid rocket engine. With a focus on sustainability, lowering space debris, cleaner propulsion, and offering top-notch space services, the company intends to use this technology for in-space propulsion and other exciting projects in five years.


Since only NASA and ESA programmes have access to microgravity, Gravitilab Startup stands out in the startup space economy market. Microgravity cannot be used by startups in Europe to test hardware. A drop tower is an additional choice that enables quick microgravity experiments on Earth.

The European Space Agency has one of these towers in Germany. With the ability to accept multiple drops each day, Gravitilab promises to be a more flexible and affordable alternative. Customers can receive the LOUIS UAV without having to travel, which reduces costs.

bluShift Aerospace, a US-based company, offers space rocket experiments. Gravitilab Startup, with a smaller payload, can accommodate fewer customers and launch their ISAAC rocket. The company will also provide a wider range of microgravity time to suit different customer needs.


In order to enter the space industry, Gravitilab Startup must overcome obstacles to funding and government support from the UK. With SpaceX having folded without receiving a NASA contract, the UK has lagged behind in national initiatives and ambition.

While the UK is barred from participating in EU programmes, the US and Germany have substantial funding for microgravity research. The UK’s support for microgravity research may help the country’s efforts to become a “science superpower.”