In-space manufacturing startup Varda Space Industries will be landing its next spacecraft in Australia as it continues working with U.S. regulators to get its first mission approved for reentry in Utah, the company announced Thursday.
The U.S. Air Force and the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration rejected Varda’s application to land its first in-space manufacturing spacecraft in the Utah desert last month. Varda CEO Delian Asparouhov told TechCrunch in a recent interview that the issue is primarily due to the three parties coordinating under a new reentry framework called Part 450.
“It had nothing to do with the safety of our vehicle, our design, our analyses, but ultimately coordination between the three parties,” he said. He added that the company met in-person with UTTR last week to begin the process of coordinating a new set of target dates to bring the spacecraft home.
“We feel confident that we technically match all the regulatory requirements for Part 450 and it’s a question of just coordination on the particular objective window for reentry.”
As the company continues working with American regulators, it formed a new agreement with Australian company Southern Launch that would see Varda’s next capsule landing at the Koonibba Test Range in 2024.
Asparouhov clarified that the company is not moving to Australia for its next mission due to regulatory compliance issues here in the United States – indeed, the company will still need an FAA reentry license, even if the capsule is not reentering on American soil – but “different ranges have different availabilities and resources and have different capabilities.”
Understanding range availability is especially important for something like spacecraft reentry. While a rocket launch can be delayed by a day or week with little problem or the vehicle, once the satellite bus executes its reentry burn, its coming back, whether regulators approve or not.
Eventually, Asparouhov said he…