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In-space manufacturing startup aces pharma experiment in orbit

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Varda Space's first "Winnebago" spacecraft, called W-Series 1, before its launch June 12.

Enlarge / Varda Space's first "Winnebago" spacecraft, called W-Series 1, before its launch June 12. (credit: Rocket Lab)

The co-founder of California-based startup Varda Space Industries says his company’s first space mission—a miniature lab that has grown crystals of the drug ritonavir in orbit—is on track to end in the coming weeks with a first-of-its-kind re-entry and landing in Utah.

Varda’s spacecraft launched June 12 as part of a rideshare mission on a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket, then completed several weeks of checkouts before starting a 27-hour drug-manufacturing experiment last week. When ground controllers gave the go-ahead, the mini-lab began growing crystals of ritonavir, a drug commonly used to treat HIV.

The experiment’s 27-hour run was completed on June 30, and data downlinked from the spacecraft showed everything went well.

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