Varda Space, a space manufacturing business, will deploy their first-ever spacecraft on the Falcon 9 rocket in early 2023 to showcase the ability to manufacture a variety of materials in microgravity. Varda Space stated on October 11 that it had inked a launch service deal with the SpaceX company for that smallsat, which is going to be launched in the first quarter of 2023 as part of the Falcon 9 rideshare mission. The contract’s terms were not disclosed by the firms.
The spacecraft is going to test space manufacturing technology for up to 3 months in orbit. The material created in orbit will be returned to Earth through a re-entry capsule at the end of the mission. SpaceX was chosen by company management because it provided the most cost-effective and reliable alternative for delivering their spacecraft into orbit. In an interview, Delian Asparouhov, who is the co-founder as well as the president of Varda Space, said, “Launch costs are a major driver of our economics.” “We want to go with the cheapest option available.”
Before deciding on SpaceX, the firm did not have to look far. Will Bruey, co-founder and CEO of Varda Space, said, “We have some experience with SpaceX company as the launch provider.” Asparouhov is a principal at the Founders Fund, that has invested in both SpaceX and Varda Space. Bruey worked at SpaceX for over six years.
Despite purchasing 3 Photon satellite buses from the Rocket Lab company in August, the business decided not to deploy the spaceship on a Rocket Lab Electron. “The economics for Electron and Photon were attractive,” Asparouhov noted, but he was wary of being overly reliant on a single business. “It’s difficult to recover if you focus risk around a single provider.”
Varda Space hasn’t ruled out deploying on Electron in the coming days, and hasn’t decided on future launches after this first mission, he noted. “The playing field is rapidly changing,” he remarked. “In a perfect world, we wouldn’t launch with SpaceX on the second and subsequent flights.”
Varda Space, unlike communications and imaging satellites, does not require a separate orbit for its mission other than low Earth orbit, making it perfect for rideshare launches. The only thing that matters, according to Bruey, is that orbital inclination is high sufficiently to pass over our landing site. Although the firm has not specified a specific location, the re-entry capsule will land on the ground.
The spacecraft is the very first of a series that will show how to make materials in microgravity. The 2nd and 3rd spacecraft are scheduled to launch by the close of 2024, using an iterative method that builds on prior missions’ lessons learned. “Getting operational hardware into orbit fast is critical to success,” Bruey added.