Canvas Category OEM : Aerospace : In-Space Manufacturing
Varda is creating a three-piece spacecraft, consisting of a commercially-available spacecraft platform, the manufacturing module, and a heatshield-protected capsule to reenter through the atmosphere and land under parachutes. The company is aiming to have its first launch and reentry in 18 months, with the goal of bringing back about 100 kilograms (or 220 pounds) of material. Varda is at preliminary design review-level currently, Bruey said, going through final details with regulators and stakeholders.
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The Space-Based Drug Factory That Can’t Come Home
Five hundred kilometers above the Earth, a small spacecraft is waiting patiently for permission to return home. The autonomous return capsule, made by startup Varda Space Industries, of Torrance, CA, was meant to have landed in the remote Utah desert early in September. It would have been the first commercial space company to return a drug made in space to Earth, in this case a few grams of the HIV and hepatitis C antiviral ritonavir.
The delay has nothing to do with the satellite itself, which appears to be operating perfectly, and everything to do with an ongoing struggle between Varda and U.S. government agencies back on the ground.
How Space Factories Are Becoming A Reality
🚀 2023 NASA Tipping Point Selections
NASA has selected 11 U.S. companies to develop technologies that will support long-term exploration on the Moon and in space under its sixth Tipping Point opportunity. The total expected NASA contribution to the partnerships is $150 million. Each company will contribute a minimum percentage, based on company size, of the total project cost. NASA’s Space Technology Mission Directorate (STMD) will issue milestone-based funded Space Act Agreements lasting for up to four years.
🚀🏭 SpaceX successfully launches world’s first 'space factory'
In 2019, pharma giant Merck revealed that an experiment on the International Space Station had shown how to make its blockbuster cancer drug Keytruda more stable. That meant it could now be administered via a shot rather than through an IV infusion. The key to the discovery was the fact that particles behave differently when freed from the force of gravity — seeing how its drug crystalized in microgravity helped Merck figure out how to tweak its manufacturing process on Earth to produce the more stable version.
During the satellite’s first week in space, Varda will focus on testing its systems to make sure everything works as hoped. The second week will be dedicated to heating and cooling the old HIV-AIDS drug ritonavir repeatedly to study how its particles crystalize in microgravity. After about a month in space, Varda will attempt to bring its first space factory back to Earth, sending it through the atmosphere at hypersonic speeds and then using a parachute system to safely land at the Department of Defense’s Utah Test and Training Range.
“Pharmaceuticals are the most valuable chemicals per unit mass,” Bruey told CNN. “And they also have a large market on Earth.”
Varda Raises $42MM Series A, to build humanity’s first Space Factories
Varda Space Industries, a company building space factories, announced a $42mm Series A. The company — founded just 8 months ago — has raised over $53mm to date, showing the appetite for Varda’s near-term, pragmatic, and commercially viable approach to space manufacturing. The company produces an assortment of materials that are only possible to make in the zero-gravity environment of space and brings them back to customers on Earth. The company will launch its first space factory in Q1 2023 and return a first batch to Earth a month later.