Varda Space Industries partners with Southern Launch to accept re-entry capsules at the Koonibba Test Range
Photo: A render of the Varda capsule re-entering the Earth’s atmosphere. Photo courtesy of Southern Launch.
South Australia will become a hub for an in-space manufacturing industry after Varda Space Industries and Southern Launch announced a partnership to conduct re-entry operations at the Koonibba Test Range.
Varda Space Industries are pioneers in developing orbital manufacturing and space re-entry systems. 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 Industries will develop life-saving pharmaceuticals in space and return the goods to Earth using their specialised return capsule.
Southern Launch Chief Executive Officer Lloyd Damp says, ‘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. We are excited to be partnering with Varda Space Industries to bring this emerging industry to Australia through the Koonibba Test Range.’
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.
Varda Space Industries Chief Executive Officer Will Bruey says, ‘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. In the future, you will know this partnership has been successful when you look up at the sky above South Australia to see our spacecraft create a shooting star before landing softly on the desert floor.’
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, and 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.
Lloyd continues, ‘The opportunities for South Australia are immense. 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.