Varda Space Industries plans to eventually land its spacecraft in Australia, but the company is still waiting on approval to bring down its already-launched first vehicle in Utah next year, according to a media report.
Varda launched its debut mission on SpaceX's Transporter-8 mission in June, and the capsule remains operational in space. Varda will land its future spacecraft at the Koonibba Test Range northwest of Adelaide, Australia under a newly announced agreement with Southern Launch. The first missions to use the site will land as soon as 2024, SpaceNews said in a report.
But the company, which is developing systems that will allow customers to manufacture products (for example, pharmaceuticals) in orbit and bring them down to Earth, is still awaiting approval from the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) and the Air Force to land its first spacecraft at the Utah Test and Training Range.
"We got very, very close," Delian Asparouhov, co-founder of Varda, said in an Oct. 20 interview with SpaceNews. The situation was related to "a coordination problem amongst three different groups that had not worked through this operation before," he added, referring to the Utah range, the Air Force and the FAA.
California-based Varda is the first company to apply for an FAA reentry license through Part 450, a new set of regulations that were put in place to make the approval process easier. Asparouhov declined to comment on whether his company would have secured approvals faster under older FAA rules.
The spacecraft is fully operational in orbit. Asparouhov said that onboard experiments are finished, and that the FAA and Air Force have expressed no concerns about safety.