Good morning. Payload is very excited to announce another speaker who will be joining us at tomorrow’s Space Capitol II event in DC: Col. Eric Zarybnisky, the director of NRO’s Office of Space Launch. We can’t wait to see Payload readers in person!
🛑 Varda’s delayed reentry
💰 General Atomics buys EO Vista
🗓️ The week ahead
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Regulators Keep Varda in Space
Varda’s first in-space manufacturing capsule can’t come back down to Earth.
On Friday, TechCrunch reported that the US Air Force denied Varda Space Industries permission to use a Utah recovery range, and the FAA also denied a reentry license, leaving the company’s orbiting pharmaceutical factory waiting in orbit.
“The request to use the Utah Test and Training Range for the landing location was not granted at this time due to the overall safety, risk and impact analysis,” an FAA spokesperson said in a statement to TechCrunch. “In a separate process, the FAA has not granted a reentry license. All organizations continue working to explore recovery options.”
What goes up…El Segundo, CA-based Varda Space Industries was founded in 2021 with ambitions to manufacture materials that are difficult or impossible to fabricate in gravity—like certain pharmaceuticals and biomaterials—up in space, where that pesky force of Newton’s doesn’t get in the way. The company has raised >$50M from investors to design, build, and launch its manufacturing spacecraft and return capsule.
The first system headed to space aboard Transporter-8 in June.
The craft successfully deployed and underwent commissioning.
The company has reportedly manufactured a batch of ritonavir, a drug used to treat HIV, in space.
…must come down: Varda was hoping that it would get permission from USAF and the FAA to bring its cache down on either Sept. 5 or 7. Those targets came and went, and Varda has still not assuaged the two entities’ concerns about the safety of the reentry. The FAA simply said that the company has not complied with regulatory requirements.
The company posted on Twitter that it’s not yet time to worry:
As a quick update, we're pleased to report that our spacecraft is healthy across all systems
It was originally designed for a full year on orbit if needed
We look forward to continuing to collaborate w/ our gov partners to bring our capsule back to Earth as soon as possible
— Varda Space Industries (@VardaSpace)
Sep 15, 2023
Still, there’s work to be done. Varda requested that the FAA reconsider its denial on Sept. 8, and that decision is pending.
TRUFORM Metal Powders: Where Precision Meets the Cosmos
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The leading space agencies and pioneers place their faith in us, not solely because of our capabilities but due to the impeccable quality we deliver consistently. Beyond manufacturing, our R&D additive lab is pushing the boundaries, printing metal parts daily and breathing life into the innovations of our esteemed industry partners.
Our commitment to quality and consistency is more than a promise; it’s an ethos. We're not just supplying material; we're ensuring you craft a masterpiece with every print that meets the highest standards. Together, let's sculpt the future of aerospace—Linde Advanced Material Technologies - Where Precision Meets the Cosmos.
General Atomics Buys EO Vista
Image: General Atomics
General Atomics acquired EO Vista, an electro-optical sensor supplier, the company announced Friday. EO Vista will be tucked into the General Atomics Electromagnetic Systems division, which houses the company’s satellite manufacturing and nuclear propulsion operations.
EO Vista is currently a General Atomics supplier, providing electro-optical weather sensors for its satellite buses. The acquisition brings a key capability in-house and adds to General Atomics space systems offerings.
“We look forward to bringing EO Vista’s unique capabilities on board as we continue to expand our weather and science programs and our growing portfolio of sensor system payload designs to support a wide range of customer requirements, including intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance missions,” General Atomics executive Scott Forney said in a statement.
Military weather: The pair teamed up in 2022 to build a demo weather satellite for the Space Force’s Electro-Optical/Infrared Weather System (EWS) program. Electro-optical sensors capture images in a multitude of wavelengths of the electromagnetic spectrum, including visible light and infrared light.
The EWS constellation will provide weather data needed for military operations including informing flight routes, maritime tracking, missile observation, and intelligence.
The next-gen satellites will replace the Defense Meteorological Satellite Program (DMSP) constellation, which is aging and set to expire in a couple years.
+ Nuclear to Mars: In addition to building out its satellite capabilities, General Atomics is building nuclear propulsion tech for the Pentagon. The defense contractor nabbed a $22M DARPA contract in 2021 to support the development of nuclear thermal propulsion for in-space transportation. The program aims to develop a spacecraft that can significantly reduce the duration of future crewed missions to Mars.
See You In October!
Join Payload and Linde at Lil' Simmzy's for an evening of networking on Oct. 10th. Food and drinks will be provided. Don't miss this opportunity to connect with space industry professionals!
In Other News
The Week Ahead
All times in Eastern.
Monday, Sept. 18: NSF’s Astronomy and Astrophysics Advisory Committee will host two days of meetings in Alexandria, VA.
Tuesday, Sept. 19: At 2:30am, Rocket Lab ($RKLB) plans to launch a Capella satellite out of Māhia Peninsula, New Zealand. The 2023 Advanced Maui Optical and Space Surveillance Technologies (AMOS) will kick off its four day conference. Payload hosts Space Capitol II in DC beginning at 5pm. At 9:47pm, SpaceX is slated to launch a batch of Starlink birds out of Cape Canaveral.
Wednesday, Sept. 20: NASA’s Lunar Exploration Analysis Group (LEAG) will host three days of meetings in Maryland.
Saturday, Sept. 23: At 8:06pm, SpaceX is scheduled to launch a batch of Starlinks out of Vandenberg.
Sunday, Sept. 24: OSIRIS-REx is expected to return to Earth with asteroid material on board.
The View from Baikonur
The Expedition 70 Crew departed the Cosmonaut Hotel in Kazakhstan on Friday to head to the ISS for a six-month mission.