Elon Musk REVEALED SpaceX INSANE New $3.2B Space Factory!
If you have ever heard of ride-sharing, brace your seatbelt as Elon Musk is about to
extend the meaning of the term! He is offering companies the opportunity to carpool to
space, and one of the beneficiaries, Varda, is asking SpaceX to send a whole factory to
space! Why is this startup asking SpaceX to send a production plant to space?
Join us as we explore SpaceX’s plan to launch Varda’s factory to space!
SpaceX might be building the insanely powerful Starship, but it already owns a
collection of the most powerful rockets in the world. Its workhorse, the Falcon 9, is 70
meters tall and weighs 549,054 kg. But more importantly, it can lift 22,800 kg payload to
low earth orbit and 8,300 kg to GTO.
Interestingly, SpaceX says it can launch a 4,020 kg payload to Mars, although we know
which of its rockets is going to the Red Planet.
The Falcon 9 is a two-stage rocket with the most expensive parts reusable, which
considerably reduces the cost of launches compared to SpaceX’s competitors. In fact,
Falcon 9 was the world’s first orbital-worthy reusable rocket.
There is enough space to carry multiple payloads in the payload with a height of 13.1
meters and diameter of 5.2 meters. SpaceX even recovers the fairing that holds the
payload from the sea and refurbishes it for reuse.
The second stage, which delivers the payload to orbit, has a single Merlin Vacuum
engine that can be restarted multiple times to place multiple payloads into different
This capability allows SpaceX to offer shared rides to space because each payload can
be released at its designated orbit before the second stage moves ahead to deliver the
Varda is taking advantage of this ride-sharing program to launch its first production
factory to space at a much-reduced price. The difference could be as much as six
That is some serious savings for a startup founded late last year and has about 50
million dollars to toy with.
Why is Varda sending a factory all the way to space when there is no shortage of land
to build here on earth?
Look no further than the mission of the company, which is to build the first space
factory. In fact, Varda says it wants to put the first industrial park in orbit.
The goal is to unlock the benefits of microgravity for manufacturing things like bio-
printed organs or special purpose semiconductors.
It is not like microgravity is not possible here on earth, but you have to get into space to
be sustainable. This is relatively expensive, but Varda is betting there will be enough
market for the venture to be sustainable economically.
This first launch is scheduled for 2023, and its main purpose is to demonstrate Varda’s
ability to make stuff in microgravity.
Varda’s spacecraft will stay in orbit for up to three months, after which a reentry capsule
will return the finished product to the earth after a de-orbit maneuver.
Will Bruey and Delian Asparouhov, the founders of Varda, have direct links with
SpaceX. Bruey worked at SpaceX for six years, while Asparouhov is a principal at
Founders Fund, which has invested in SpaceX.
However, there is more than familiarity at play in Varda’s decision to launch with
SpaceX. Since Varda purchased three Photon satellite buses from Rocket Lab, it is
reasonable to expect Varda to launch with a Rocket Lab-built Electron rocket dedicated
to launching small satellites.
However, Asparouhov claims he was concerned about overreliance on a single
company. That would be too risky because it would be harder to recover from a failure.
But that reasoning is apart from the cost-saving because Rocket Lab’s Electron launch
is quite expensive. Sending a 200 kg payload to a sun-synchronous orbit with an
Electron rocket is believed to cost in the range of 7.5 million dollars, whereas a shared
ride from SpaceX could be as low as one million dollars.
Of course, an Electron rocket launch is more precise than a Falcon 9 rideshare, but this
is a moot point as the Photon buses Varda purchased come, by default, with a
propulsion system that Varda can use to refine the orbit after it has been dropped off the
Even the thrusters might not get used because Varda’s spacecraft factory does not
require a specific orbit to work, unlike communications and imaging spacecraft. All
Varda needs is for the orbital inclination to be high enough to go over the landing site.
Varda’s reentry capsule is to descend on land, not on water, to keep the cost low, but
the company has yet to specify where the landing would be in the US. Asparouhov says
the location would have to be sparsely populated, so it is likely a desert.
The Photon bus also comes equipped with solar panels, batteries, avionics that will
support and power any payload onboard. In Varda’s case, the power system will run the
factory in space.
Varda is open to launching on Electron in the future. It hasn’t decided its launch partner
for subsequent flight to orbit because, according to Bruey, the playing field changes
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