Space pharmaceutical factory is banned from returning to Earth

The US Federal Aviation Administration and the US Air Force did not give Varda Space permission to return its capsule to Earth. Inside is an orbital factory engaged in the manufacture of medicines in orbit.

Varda Space Orbital Factory (concept). Source: Varda Space

The Varda Space pharmaceutical factory was launched on June 12 by a Falcon 9 rocket. It successfully entered orbit and then began to fulfill its main mission — the production of HIV drugs. Crystals of the active substance were subjected to various experiments to test how their properties and structure change in microgravity conditions.

The return of the spacecraft to Earth was planned for early September. Varda Space expected to land the capsule, with the factory and the results of the experiments inside, back in early September. A military training site in Utah was considered as the main landing site, where the capsule of the OSIRIS-REx spacecraft recently landed.

However, Varda Space has not received permission for this operation. The US Air Force banned Varda Space from using its landfill, while the FAA basically banned the capsule from entering the Earth’s atmosphere. The organization motivated its decision by security considerations and risk assessment.

According to some experts, the refusal may be caused by the precedent nature of the mission. Varda Space became the first private company to announce its intention to regularly launch cargo into orbit and then return them to Earth. Perhaps regulators are planning to create a single standard of applications for such missions.

As for Varda Space, it has already asked the FAA to reconsider the decision. In its statement, the company said that it was negotiating with regulators, and also noted that, if necessary, its orbital factory would be able to stay in space for a year.

According to

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