In-space manufacturing company Varda plans to land its reentry capsules in Australia: report

Artist's conception of a capsule from Varda Space Industries re-entering the atmosphere.
Artist's conception of a capsule from Varda Space Industries re-entering the atmosphere. (Image credit: Varda Space Industries)

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.

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"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.

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Elizabeth Howell
Staff Writer, Spaceflight

Elizabeth Howell (she/her), Ph.D., is a staff writer in the spaceflight channel since 2022 covering diversity, education and gaming as well. She was contributing writer for for 10 years before joining full-time. Elizabeth's reporting includes multiple exclusives with the White House and Office of the Vice-President of the United States, an exclusive conversation with aspiring space tourist (and NSYNC bassist) Lance Bass, speaking several times with the International Space Station, witnessing five human spaceflight launches on two continents, flying parabolic, working inside a spacesuit, and participating in a simulated Mars mission. Her latest book, "Why Am I Taller?", is co-written with astronaut Dave Williams. Elizabeth holds a Ph.D. and M.Sc. in Space Studies from the University of North Dakota, a Bachelor of Journalism from Canada's Carleton University and a Bachelor of History from Canada's Athabasca University. Elizabeth is also a post-secondary instructor in communications and science at several institutions since 2015; her experience includes developing and teaching an astronomy course at Canada's Algonquin College (with Indigenous content as well) to more than 1,000 students since 2020. Elizabeth first got interested in space after watching the movie Apollo 13 in 1996, and still wants to be an astronaut someday. Mastodon: