A startup co-founded by a SpaceX alum, plans to jumpstart the future of space manufacturing with its orbital pharmaceutical lab — which will be run by robots.
As Bloomberg notes in a profile on the Los Angeles-based Varda Space Industries, the biggest thing going for Varda's gambit is the fact that in microgravity, atoms, and molecules behave differently. That's why space-bound manufacturing presents a unique opportunity to synthesize chemicals and drugs that aren't available on Earth.
"We have built a unique way to manipulate chemical systems," Varda co-founder and CEO Will Bruey told Bloomberg. "And the most expensive chemical systems on Earth are drugs. We knew that making them in space was the killer app of microgravity."
Unlike the human-oriented lab on board the International Space Station, Varda's robot lab capsule is at its widest point about three feet across. It's intended to make prototypes to be delivered back to Earth rather than making entire industrial-sized batches in space.
— Varda Space Industries (@VardaSpace) January 19, 2023
The company is planning to have its robots work on possible treatments for cancer, diabetes, and chronic pain.
As the report notes, Varda's "manufacturing satellite" is scheduled to make its maiden voyage on board a SpaceX rocket in June alongside "dozens" of other satellites.
This initial launch will test if the company's capsules can survive the fiery reentry through the Earth's atmosphere, which is no easy feat, especially with complex chemicals on board.
But Varda is confident in its product.
"We are able to do world-class chemistry," Varda co-founder Delian Asparouhov told Bloomberg. "We are not just aerospace jackwagons."
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