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Varda Space Industries’ capsules to touch down at Southern Launch’s Koonibba Test Range

South Australia will become a hub for an in-space manufacturing industry after California-based Varda Space Industries and Southern Launch announced a partnership to conduct re-entry operations at the Koonibba Test Range. The first such mission is scheduled for mid-2024.

Varda Space Industries is building the world’s first commercial microgravity industrial park at scale. The company develops in-orbit production equipment as well as economical reentry capsules. It aims to develop life-saving pharmaceuticals in space and return the goods to Earth using the company’s specialised return capsule. The natural advantages of the space environment, in particular microgravity and vacuum, enable the production of goods that cannot be manufactured on Earth. Varda Space

In addition, Varda partners with the US Air Force, Navy, and NASA to utilize its reentry capsules as a testing platform for hypersonic and reentry technologies.

Southern Launch Chief Executive Officer Lloyd Damp said, “In-space manufacturing is the next evolution of humanity’s industrial capacity, and elements produced in-orbit have the potential to change the course of history.”

The Koonibba Test Range, which Southern Launch operates in partnership with the Koonibba Community Aboriginal Corporation, offers over 23,000 square kilometres of uninhabited land to accept the re-entry of in-space manufacturing capsules. US based Varda Space Industries will use the range to conduct a re-entry operation as soon as its second orbital mission, scheduled for mid-2024.

 “Our partnership with the Koonibba Test Range is a great example of the ongoing collaboration between the United States and Australia within aerospace and defence,” said Varda Space Industries CEO Will Bruey.

Southern Launch will support Varda Space Industries to conduct high cadence re-entry operations at the Koonibba Test Range to meet a wide range of Varda’s customer needs.

Looking to the future, Southern Launch hopes South Australia can become the global hub for in-space manufacturing thanks to the company’s two unique space sites that together can accommodate the launch and subsequent return of in-space manufacturing vehicles.

“The opportunities for South Australia are immense,” said Lloyd Damp. “It’s likely that by the end of this decade everyday Australians will use products with parts manufactured in orbit. This makes space the resource industry of the future and we have the potential to expand on Australia’s high-tech manufacturing industry and develop the consumer end products right here in Australia.’

The first re-entry of a Varda Space Industries capsule to the Koonibba Test Range is scheduled for mid-2024, subject to regulatory approvals.

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