Rocket Lab USA Inc. has completed construction on a Photon spacecraft for Varda Space Industries, an El Segundo-based in-space pharmaceutical manufacturing company.
Rocket Lab made the spacecraft at its Long Beach manufacturing site to provide power, communications, propulsion and attitude control to a capsule that will produce pharmaceutical products in microgravity.
In addition to providing support during the in-space phase of Varda’s mission, the Photon will put Varda’s capsule carrying finished pharmaceuticals on a return trajectory to Earth.
With final assembly, integration, and test of the spacecraft complete, the fully integrated Varda spacecraft has been shipped to Vandenberg Space Force Base for launch on a commercial rideshare mission scheduled for no earlier than June 8.
Peter Beck, Rocket Lab’s founder and chief executive, said opening access to space is about more than just launch for the company. It is about making it easier to put ideas of tomorrow into orbit today and enabling innovation that will improve life on Earth.
“This is exactly what the team at Varda is doing by producing novel pharmaceuticals in orbit, and we’re immensely proud to make that possible with our Photon spacecraft,” Beck said. “Space Systems is a rapidly growing part of Rocket Lab’s business, and we’re delighted to deliver another spacecraft that leverages our vertical-integration strategy for high-quality and cost-effective satellite solutions on rapid timelines.”
Varda Space Industries Chief Executive Will Bruey said that Rocket Lab delivered the spacecraft on schedule and on budget.
“Our engineers at Varda and the Rocket Lab team have worked together seamlessly and are excited by the benefits this spacecraft will bring to Earth and health care,” Bruey said.
The mission will focus on small-molecule formulation to provide insight into retrieved microgravity-grown pharmaceutical crystals, particularly the antiretroviral Ritonavir, an active ingredient in the Covid medication Paxlovid, which is also used in the treatment of the human immunodeficiency virus.
The Photon spacecraft is the first of four ordered by Varda.