Varda Space Industries Receives Approval To Bring Drug Manufacturing Spacecraft Back To Earth


Varda Space Industries has finally obtained the much-anticipated approval from regulators to bring its first spacecraft, the Winnebago capsule, back to Earth. This spacecraft carries a crucial payload of pharmaceutical crystals that were manufactured in orbit, marking a significant milestone for the company.

Key Takeaway

Varda Space Industries has secured approval to bring its drug manufacturing spacecraft, carrying pharmaceutical crystals manufactured in orbit, back to Earth. This development underscores the company’s pioneering efforts in space-based manufacturing and its collaboration with government partners to advance innovative initiatives.

Regulatory Approval and Landing Attempt

The Winnebago capsule had been stranded in orbit for several months following its launch on a SpaceX Transporter mission eight months ago. The original plan was to bring it back to Earth in July, but Varda faced challenges in obtaining the necessary regulatory authorizations for the landing attempt. After working closely with regulators, the company has now set its sights on a landing attempt at the Air Force’s Utah Test and Training Range on February 21.

Pharmaceutical Payload

Of particular importance is the payload carried by the capsule, which includes crystals of the drug Ritonavir, used in the treatment of HIV/AIDS. These crystals were manufactured in the unique environment of space, highlighting the potential for space-based manufacturing to contribute to critical medical advancements.

Government Partnership and Regulatory Milestones

Varda expressed its pride in collaborating with government partners and acknowledged their commitment to fostering safe innovation in the United States. The company also emphasized its role as the first to seek permission to reenter a spacecraft under the new FAA regulations known as Part 450. Additionally, this marks the first instance of the FAA licensing a commercial company to land a spacecraft on U.S. soil, distinguishing Varda’s pioneering efforts in the space industry.

Future Endeavors

Varda is part of a select group of startups aiming to leverage the advantages of microgravity for manufacturing materials such as pharmaceuticals. Looking ahead, the company has ambitious plans to bring spacecraft containing manufactured materials back to Earth on a monthly basis by 2026. Furthermore, Varda has announced its intention to land its second spacecraft in Australia’s Koonibba Test Range in the near future, underscoring its commitment to advancing space-based manufacturing capabilities.

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