– SpaceX launched a ridesharing mission that included the first factory in space to manufacture pharmaceuticals.– Varda Space Industries purchased four custom-made Photon spacecraft from Rocket Lab for in-space manufacturing.– The first spacecraft successfully launched and is operating in orbit.– Varda’s spacecraft includes the Photon spacecraft and a re-entry capsule for a pharmaceutical experiment in orbit.– Once the mission is complete, the capsule will return to Earth, surviving re-entry and landing in Utah using parachutes.– Varda aims to use the microgravity environment to develop drugs that are not feasible to make on Earth.– This will be the first experiment operating independently in low-Earth orbit without astronauts’ intervention.
A SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket with the Crew Dragon spacecraft lifts off from pad 39A at the Kennedy Space Center for the Axiom Space Mission 2 (Ax-2) on May 21, 2023 in Cape Canaveral, Florida. (Paul Hennesy/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images)
SpaceX launched dozens of spacecraft Monday in a ridesharing mission, including the first factory in space to manufacture pharmaceuticals.
Varda Space Industries purchased four custom-made Photon spacecraft from Rocket Lab to support its goals of in-space manufacturing. The first spacecraft launched Monday from California and is successfully operating in orbit, According to a report from a news release from Rocket Lab.
The satellite includes the Photon spacecraft and Varda’s re-entry capsule and was among 72 launched on a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket and deployed in orbit. Photon provides power, communication and propulsion for Varda’s 2-pound (120 kg) capsule, where a pharmaceutical experiment will happen in orbit.
“We have ACQUISITION OF SIGNAL,” Varda tweeted about two hours after the satellite was in orbit. “The world’s first space factory’s solar panels have found the sun and it’s beginning to de-tumble.”
Once Varda’s mission is done, Rocket Lab’s spacecraft will place the capsule, with the pharmaceuticals on board, and put it on a trajectory to return to Earth. The capsule must then survive re-entering Earth’s atmosphere at speeds up to Mach 25 or about 19,000 mph and land in Utah using parachutes.
An employee looks at the Rocket Lab Photon spacecraft built for Varda Space Industries in the cleanroom. (Image: Rocket Lab)
There is increasing interest in developing low-Earth orbit as a manufacturing and test-bed economy.
Earlier this year, Varda was awarded a $60-million Air Force contract to use the company’s hypersonic vehicle as a test bed when it returns from microgravity.
Varda’s goal is to use the microgravity environment and increasing access to space to develop drugs that don’t have feasible formulations on Earth. The first flight will test the crystallization process of ritonavir, a medicine that can be used to treat HIV/AIDs when combined with other treatments.
The pharmaceutical industry has already been operating in low-Earth orbit but with the help of astronauts on the International Space Station. Companies can buy space in the ISS laboratory, where astronauts manage hundreds of experiments. This will be the first experiment operating independently without hands-on intervention.
Another Rocket Lab spacecraft for Varda is…
According to a report from Fox 7 Austin, SpaceX recently launched a groundbreaking mission, sending dozens of spacecraft into orbit, including the world’s first factory in space dedicated to manufacturing pharmaceuticals. Varda Space Industries, in collaboration with Rocket Lab, purchased four custom-made Photon spacecraft to support their ambitious goals of in-space manufacturing.
The first Photon spacecraft was successfully launched from California and is currently operating in orbit. This satellite, along with Varda’s re-entry capsule, was deployed in orbit as part of a larger payload of 72 spacecraft on a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket. The Photon spacecraft plays a crucial role in providing power, communication, and propulsion for Varda’s 2-pound capsule, where a groundbreaking pharmaceutical experiment will take place.
Varda Space Industries took to Twitter to announce the successful deployment of their spacecraft, stating, “We have ACQUISITION OF SIGNAL. The world’s first space factory’s solar panels have found the sun, and it’s beginning to de-tumble.” This achievement marks a significant milestone in the development of in-space manufacturing capabilities.
Once Varda’s mission is completed, Rocket Lab’s spacecraft will carefully place the capsule, containing the pharmaceuticals, on a trajectory to return to Earth. However, the capsule must endure the challenging re-entry process, where it will face speeds of up to Mach 25 or approximately 19,000 mph before landing in Utah with the help of parachutes.
The concept of utilizing low-Earth orbit as a manufacturing and test-bed economy is gaining increasing interest. Varda Space Industries was recently awarded a $60-million Air Force contract, allowing them to use their hypersonic vehicle as a test bed upon its return from microgravity. This contract highlights the potential for leveraging the unique microgravity environment and enhanced access to space to develop drugs that are not feasible to produce on Earth.
The first flight of Varda’s space factory will focus on testing the crystallization process of ritonavir, a medicine used in the treatment of HIV/AIDS when combined with other therapies. While the pharmaceutical industry has already been conducting experiments in low-Earth orbit with the assistance of astronauts on the International Space Station (ISS), this will be the first experiment to operate independently, without direct hands-on intervention.
Varda Space Industries’ partnership with Rocket Lab and their pioneering efforts in in-space manufacturing signify a new era in pharmaceutical development. By harnessing the unique conditions of space, Varda aims to develop drugs that were previously unattainable due to limitations on Earth. This groundbreaking mission not only opens doors for the pharmaceutical industry but also demonstrates the potential of low-Earth orbit as a platform for various manufacturing and research endeavors.
By way of conclusion, the successful launch of the world’s first drug-making factory in space by Varda Space Industries and Rocket Lab marks a significant milestone in the advancement of in-space manufacturing capabilities. With increasing interest in utilizing low-Earth orbit for various industries, Varda’s groundbreaking mission paves the way for future developments in pharmaceutical research and manufacturing.
Photo Credit: pubs.acs.org