Varda Space Industries Faces Setback as U.S. Air Force Denies Capsule Landing Request


Varda Space Industries, a space manufacturing startup, has encountered a significant setback as the U.S. Air Force denied its request to land a capsule at a Utah training area. This decision has disrupted Varda's plans to showcase its in-space manufacturing capabilities. Additionally, the company's application for a commercial space license was also rejected by the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration (FAA).

Originally, Varda intended to return a capsule containing ritonavir crystals, a drug used to treat HIV, in mid-July. However, delays pushed the rescheduled landing dates to September 5 and 7. Both the U.S. Air Force and the FAA have denied the necessary approvals for these landing attempts.

While Varda has not provided an official statement regarding these setbacks, they have communicated that their spacecraft remains in good condition across all systems. The company is actively collaborating with regulatory authorities to find a solution to bring the capsule safely back to Earth. Notably, the spacecraft has the capability to survive in orbit for up to a year.

The U.S. Air Force explained that the denial of the landing request was based on concerns related to safety, risk, and impact analysis. The FAA, on the other hand, rejected Varda's application on September 6, citing the company's failure to demonstrate compliance with regulatory requirements.

In response to these rejections, Varda has formally requested that the FAA reconsider its decision, a request that is currently pending review. Varda's mission, involving the reentry of its capsule, presents unique challenges due to its proposed reentry cadence of monthly missions by 2026, which is unprecedented in commercial space activity. As a result, authorities are working to establish appropriate precedents for future commercial reentry missions.

The Utah Test and Training Range (UTTR) was initially selected as the landing site, meeting Varda's specific criteria. UTTR has previously hosted capsule recovery missions for organizations such as NASA. However, Varda's ambitious mission schedule and objectives have necessitated a more comprehensive regulatory review process.

Varda Space Industries is utilizing Rocket Lab's Photon spacecraft for this mission and at least three additional missions. Rocket Lab's Photon spacecraft provides the necessary power, data, and attitude control for the mission. Upon reentry, Rocket Lab's spacecraft will disintegrate in the Earth's atmosphere, while Varda's capsule will deploy parachutes and make a controlled landing.

The setbacks faced by Varda highlight the intricate regulatory landscape and challenges involved in commercial space activities. The company remains committed to working with regulatory authorities to overcome these obstacles and advance its innovative space manufacturing capabilities.



InsightX Newsletter for latest Update /Don’t worry, it’s 100% free