Space factories for Earth-bound products. Varda Space Industries is building the world's first commercial zero-gravity industrial park at scale. In the near-term, Varda is laser-focused on manufacturing things off Earth that are highly valued on Earth. Over the long-term, Varda can build the infrastructure needed to enable humanity to industrialize space.
- In-Space Manufacturing
- In-Space Manufacturing
Microgravity Flight Service (Reusable Satellite)
Transport Service (Re-Entry)
- Space Capsule
- First launch
How? First, make profitable unmanned in-space factories manufacturing product #1 (more to come soon). Next, manufacture other important things in-space that benefit from low G. Then, build the first platform infrastructure that can easily harvest the source materials for those and other products in-space via asteroids and the like.
Varda has a radically big vision. We can break the limits of scarcity imposed by Earth. We can stop relying on destructive extraction of Earth's finite resources for all manufacturing. We can build the space infrastructure necessary to propel humanity into becoming a multi-planet species.
Rocket Lab announced it has signed a deal with in-space manufacturing company Varda Space Industries to produce three Photon spacecraft that will integrate with their space factories, enabling high-value products to be manufactured in zero-gravity and returned to Earth in Varda’s re-entry capsule.
- The companies did not disclose the terms of the contract. The spacecraft will spend up to three months in orbit to test space manufacturing technologies. At the end of that mission, a reentry capsule will return to Earth the material produced in orbit.
- Company executives said they chose SpaceX because it offered the least expensive and most reliable solution for getting their spacecraft into orbit. “Launch costs is a core driver of our economics,” said Delian Asparouhov, co-founder and president of Varda Space, in an interview. “We want to stick to the lowest cost available solution.”
- There’s also an option for Varda to procure a fourth Photon spacecraft in the future. “For the first few missions, we are developing what we call it as Disposable Space Factories. The Photon and the factory will burn up but the materials will survive. That’s just to keep the technology as simple as possible.”
- The company plans to develop rendezvous and docking capability as soon as the business scales up. “The future is showing that we can send the materials and the factory up to the space for 1 million dollars and we can make a million and one dollars of profit. [T]he moment that happens, we [will] turn around like SpaceX and start producing these factories every single day and make them larger and larger, where initially, rather than having something the size of the Photon, we have something the size of a school bus, and eventually something the size of the ISS, or even ten times the ISS.”
Passed a major test in preparation for our launch on Transporter 8. This drop test mimicked the sequence our vehicle will execute after reaching terminal velocity post re-entry. This was done with a flight-like vehicle, not a drop-test dummy.
- Varda plans to use robots to mix, heat and cool chemical compounds suitable for drug development, which will then be converted into a solid form and returned to Earth, where it hopes they’ll serve as the basis for making industrial-size batches of new pharma products in traditional factories. Among the products it is likely to pursue are novel cancer therapies, as well as treatments for diabetes and chronic pain. “We have built a unique way to manipulate chemical systems,” says Will Bruey, Varda’s co-founder and chief executive officer. “And the most expensive chemical systems on Earth are drugs. We knew that making them in space was the killer app of microgravity.”
- It also has a $60 million contract with the US Air Force and NASA to study its capsules’ reentry into Earth’s atmosphere, which they’re expected to do at more than 25 times the speed of sound. So-called hypersonic flight is an area of strategic competition between the US and China, and Varda’s vehicles are attractive for experiments, since unlike many capsules returning to Earth they aren’t carrying humans.
- Numerous promising drugs can crystallize when stored, rendering them unusable on humans. Infamously, this issue forced a stop to the sales of the pill form of the HIV drug Ritonavir in the late 1990s, after years of research and hundreds of millions of dollars in investment. Varda’s executives think the company can use orbital labs to kick-start development of new versions of many older drugs in safe pill and injectable forms.
- Assuming it succeeds in demonstrating in its first launch that its basic methods can work, Varda will still have to confront doubts that many useful drugs can be made in space and questions about whether drugs originating in orbit can be mass-produced in factories on Earth.
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