Space Factory Denied Re-Entry to Earth

Just how long can its payload last in orbit?

A space factory designed to manufacture pharmaceuticals while in orbit around Earth will now be hanging out off planet a little longer than expected.

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That’s because the U.S. Air Force denied Varda Space Industries’ request for re-entry, according to TechCrunch, which said the company asked for permission to land a capsule at a Utah training facility. The report said the Federal Aviation Administration also denied Varda’s application for a commercial space license.

Varda was targeting September 5 and 7 as re-entry dates but an Air Force spokesperson told TechCrunch it couldn’t grant the request “due to the overall safety, risk and impact analysis.”

Varda acknowledged the delay but reassured that its spacecraft was still healthy across all systems. The company is reportedly working on alternative plans for bringing its payload back to the planet.

It was originally designed for a full year on orbit if needed,” the company said in a statement. “We look forward to continuing to collaborate w/ our gov partners to bring our capsule back to Earth as soon as possible.”

Varda’s space factory took off back in June aboard a SpaceX rocket. According to CNN, the company’s capsule is carried by a satellite bus – supplied by Rocket Lab, for now – while in orbit. On board the capsule, machines set to work creating components needed for pharmaceuticals. During this mission, Varda’s capsule was making crystals for a drug used to treat HIV.

It’s unclear how long Varda’s payload can last in orbit – the company had originally planned to bring its capsule back in mid-July.

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