Varda Space Industries is building the first commercial zero-gravity industrial park at scale. They plan to make large amounts of better drugs, semiconductors, fiber optic cable and other products in near zero-g.
Varda has received $53M in venture funding from investors including Khosla Ventures, Lux Capital, Founders Fund, Caffeinated Capital, General Catalyst and Also Capital. They have been operating for about nine months and have about two dozen staff but are hiring rapidly.
They signed a deal with Rocket Lab today for three Photon spacecraft that will integrate with their space factories, enabling high-value products to be manufactured in zero-gravity and returned to Earth in Varda’s re-entry capsule.
Photon will support Varda’s 120 kg manufacturing and re-entry modules with power, data, and attitude control. All three Photon spacecraft will also incorporate Rocket Lab-designed and built spacecraft components, including radios, reaction wheels and star trackers. Rocket Lab’s Photon will also perform multiple burns with the 3D-printed Curie engine, acting as a highly capable propulsion system to place Varda’s re-entry capsule on a return trajectory to Earth.
Manufacturing in orbit has been too costly to scale. Making a space factory using the autonomous Photon spacecraft will drastically lower the costs.
The first Varda Photon is planned for delivery in Q1 2023, with the second to follow up later in the year and a third in 2024. The contract, which is subject to standard termination provisions, also includes an option for Varda to procure a fourth Photon. Each mission has a nominal three-month duration from launch to landing.
Rocketlabs Photon is an integrated launch and satellite solution.
Rocket Lab’s Photon small spacecraft is based on the heritage Electron launch vehicle Kick Stage, leveraging numerous components that have significant flight heritage, including the Curie engine, an in-house designed and developed in-space propulsion system
Photon flies as the upper stage of Electron, eliminating the parasitic mass of deployed spacecraft and enabling full utilization of the fairing
Photon can also fly on other launch vehicles, in particular using ESPA ports as a secondary payload.
It costs about $7.5 million to launch an Electron rocket.
Varda needs to crack re-entry at an industrial scale to bring back the products.
They want to scale to a SpaceX launch vehicle every other day and bring back products every day.
SOURCES – Varda, Rocketlabs, John Coogan
Written by Brian Wang, Nextbigfuture.com
Brian Wang is a Futurist Thought Leader and a popular Science blogger with 1 million readers per month. His blog Nextbigfuture.com is ranked #1 Science News Blog. It covers many disruptive technology and trends including Space, Robotics, Artificial Intelligence, Medicine, Anti-aging Biotechnology, and Nanotechnology.
Known for identifying cutting edge technologies, he is currently a Co-Founder of a startup and fundraiser for high potential early-stage companies. He is the Head of Research for Allocations for deep technology investments and an Angel Investor at Space Angels.
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10 thoughts on “Varda Zero G Factories”
rgschreib?? If getting loads of outer space manufactured things down to Earth, with all the problems of air friction heat, cussed by the space ships re-entry into our Earth's atmosphere, then, what if we could USE the falling energy of the space ship or warehouse module, to slow it down to a point where the extreme air friction heat does not happen? That is, would it be possible to create some kind of a super-strong UMBRELLA, made of very tough new composite materials, that the space ship could extend and open above it as it begins its atmospheric descent? That way, the greatly-compressed air, that is being funneled up to the top part of this umbrella, could be re-directed to an turbine and air pump system, that draws in and compresses, air from the lateral sides of the falling space ship, and that sideways vacuum effect would slow it down a lot. And then this system could compress that air, and then release it in high pressure puffs from its underside, to repeatedly SLOW DOWN the whole thing, so that the extreme descent speed that makes the air friction with its dangerous heat, not happen at all.
And especially a "get from orbit" material supply. Even the Moon material is easy compared to Earth launch.
Fractional space manufacturing with individual manufacturing/reentry pods might work for an initial start, but the scaling doesn't favor that well for bulk stuff. It does pair well with initial manufacturing testing/prototyping or small lot (by volume/mass) products. Think of the initial tests for ZBLAN fiber manufacturing on ISS, which used a much smaller furnace and not a full sized ingot.
Better to have a persistent platform/freeflyer station paired with regular visits by something like Crew Dragon or Dream Chaser. They can drop off manufacturing modules and parts/ingredients, and specifically retrieve finished products without returning the whole damn module.
I highly recommend watching the attached Video on Varda. They are not planning to build one huge factory in space but thousands of small modules which will do their thing and return. Re entry will be the next big thing to master with space. I personally think if we are going to manufacture on the moon and space building re entry shields will be the first big product. I have been buying a number of space company stocks. I am surprised to find besides the obvious person Musk involved but also his long time partner Peter Thiel. I was surprised recently to learn two of the original key investors in Demis Hassabis DeepMind Venture were Musk and Thiel. I wonder how they let Alphabet wind up with this company?
Science labs and proof-of-concept installations first. Sprawling 'orbital industrial parks' are a few more steps down the road as a 'make in orbit – keep in orbit' supply line has to develop.
"look at the stars of Elbereth". My grandfather would say "Look at all the stars!"
"there is more to Middle-earth than can immediately be communicated" -Tom Shippey, Wiki
A Elbereth Gilthoniel,
silivren penna míriel
o menel aglar elenath!
o galadhremmin ennorath,
Fanuilos, le linnathon
nef aear, sí nef aearon!
A Elbereth Gilthoniel,
o menel palan-díriel,
le nallon sí di'nguruthos!
A tiro nin, Fanuilos!
O'Neill Space is Space. Starlink and comm sats are at a place *related to* the planet, not really a Space thing. Even Space Solar, unless built in Space, is just an extension of Earth territory. Same with Mars centric ISS experiments. Space is the Place!
Great that someone has devised a business model to build it, should have been forthcoming, much more constructive than starlink as an initial step in commercializing space.
Only $5 T? edit: 1,000 TWe-y is 1,000,000 G 1,000,000,000 M 1,000,000,000,000 KWe-y and about 10,000 hours in a year is 10,000,000,000,000,000 KWe-h at $.01 per is $100,000,000,000,000. "1,000 TWe-y BY 2070" Criswell LSP pg 9. Why, that is $100 T!
the problem? Planet chauvinism!
edit: this shows how lost one is not understanding O'Neill. "if the Lunar Starship ever docks with Gateway, the size comparison with
Gateway will appear silly and beg the question as to whether Gateway is
actually necessary" Of course it is not necessary, to go to Mars!
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