Rocket Lab's Blue and Gold Photon spacecrafts.

Rocket Lab's Blue and Gold Photon spacecrafts.

Long Beach-based Rocket Lab USA Inc. has signed a deal to produce three of its Photon spacecraft for Varda Space Industries' “space factories."

The Photon spacecraft will be used in Torrance-based Varda’s first in-space manufacturing missions scheduled to start in 18 months, Rocket Lab said in an Aug. 11 announcement. Financial terms of the deal were not released.

The Photon spacecraft will enable products to be manufactured in zero-gravity. The products will be returned to Earth via a re-entry capsule created by Varda. Each mission using the Photon spacecraft is anticipated to last around three months.

“Photon enables our customers to unlock the full potential of space,” Rocket Lab founder and Chief Executive Peter Beck said in a statement. “It removes a massive barrier to the growing small satellite market by delivering our customers a versatile and configurable spacecraft platform that they don’t need to build themselves.”

Rocket Lab will deliver the first Photon spacecraft to Varda in the first quarter of 2023, and is expected to finish two more in 2024. All three spacecraft will incorporate components designed and built by Rocket Lab, including radios, reaction wheels and star trackers.

“Photon is a great fit for our mission and (the Rocket Lab) team has displayed significant engineering rigor,” Varda Chief Executive Will Bruey said in a statement. “Working with them will allow us to deliver on our aggressive schedule and tight budget.”

Varda is a space manufacturing startup founded in 2020 by Bruey, who is a 10-year veteran of Hawthorne-based Space Exploration Technologies Corp., and Delian Asparouhov, a principal at Peter Thiel’s Founders Fund. The deal follows Varda’s $42 million funding round closed on July 29.

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