The first-of-its-kind commercial spacecraft, owned by a space manufacturing startup called Varda Space Industries, has been in orbit for two months longer than originally planned, and the government hopes it will return to Earth with a stash of medical samples. Waiting for approval.
Varda’s satellite will demonstrate the company’s technology to produce commercial materials, primarily pharmaceuticals, in retrievable capsules designed to return products to Earth for laboratory analysis and eventual commercial use. The mission was originally scheduled to last one month, but it was launched on June 12th.
But recovery of Varda’s capsule has been put on hold because the Federal Aviation Administration and the U.S. Air Force recently denied Varda permission to land the spacecraft in a remote area of Utah. First reported by TechCrunch The FAA denied Mr. Varda’s application for a commercial reentry permit.
“Varda Space Industries launched into space without obtaining re-entry clearance,” an FAA spokesperson told Ars on Wednesday. “On September 6, the FAA denied Balda’s reentry permit application because Balda failed to demonstrate compliance with regulatory requirements.”
An FAA spokeswoman said Varda formally asked the regulator to reconsider its decision two days later. “The request for reconsideration is pending,” the FAA said.
According to TechCrunch, Varda was looking to land at the Utah Test and Training Range, a remote facility operated by the U.S. Air Force southwest of Salt Lake City, on September 5 and 7. This is the same landing range where NASA’s OSIRIS-REx mission will return samples from the asteroid to Earth on Sunday. The Air Force also denied Varda permission to land, citing an “overall safety, risk and impact analysis.” TechCrunch reports that Varda and government officials are exploring other recovery options.
Varda did not provide comment to Ars for this story, but Post on social media platform X The company said last week that the spacecraft was “sound on all systems.” Varda said the company’s spacecraft is designed to stay in orbit for a full year if necessary, but the company will continue to work with government partners “to return the capsule to Earth as quickly as possible.” Ta.
The FAA’s Office of Commercial Space Operations is responsible for authorizing commercial launches and atmospheric reentry operations, but a large part of its job is reviewing launch authorization applications. The FAA has authorized 82 commercial launches so far this year, which is already more than it authorized in all of 2022. Ten years ago, the FAA authorized eight commercial launches.
The tenfold increase in U.S. commercial launch activity over the past decade is almost entirely due to SpaceX’s increased launch pace. The FAA has requested more funding to hire talent and support the rapidly growing commercial space industry.