Rocket Lab Ships Completed Custom-Built Photon Spacecraft for Varda Space Industries

Rocket Lab Ships Completed Custom-Built Photon Spacecraft for Varda Space Industries

Rocket Lab USA, a global manufacturer in launch services and space systems, announced it has completed and shipped a custom Photon spacecraft developed for Varda Space Industries, a space manufacturing, and hypersonic re-entry logistics company. The Rocket Lab-designed and built Photon spacecraft will provide power, communications, propulsion, and attitude control to Varda’s 120kg capsule that will produce pharmaceutical products in microgravity and return them to Earth.

 In addition to providing support during the in-space manufacturing phase of Varda’s mission, the Photon will place Varda’s hypersonic re-entry capsule (carrying finished pharmaceuticals on board) on a return trajectory to Earth. Varda’s space-manufactured products are targeting small molecule therapeutics and over time larger molecules and biologics — all of which can have higher efficacy when produced in microgravity, while the re-entry capsule provides opportunities to advance hypersonic systems. This first mission will focus on small molecule formulation to provide insight into retrieved microgravity-grown pharmaceutical crystals, particularly the antiretroviral Ritonavir, an active ingredient in the COVID medication Paxlovid also used in the treatment of Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV).

The Photon spacecraft was developed, manufactured, and tested at Rocket Lab’s Spacecraft Production Facility in Long Beach, California. With final assembly, integration, and test of the spacecraft complete, the fully integrated Varda spacecraft has been shipped to Vandenberg Space Force Base for launch on a commercial rideshare mission scheduled for no earlier than June 8.

This Photon spacecraft is the first of four ordered by Varda to support in-space pharmaceutical manufacturing. Leveraging Rocket Lab’s deep vertical integration, all Photon spacecraft incorporate Rocket Lab-designed and manufactured components and software including star trackers, propulsion, reaction wheels, solar panels, flight software, radios, composite structures and tanks, and separation systems.

“Opening access to space is about much more than launch for Rocket Lab. It’s about making it easier to put the ideas of tomorrow in orbit today, enabling innovation, rapid iteration and new capabilities that will improve lives back on Earth. This is exactly what the team at Varda is doing by producing novel pharmaceuticals in orbit and we’re immensely proud to make that possible with our Photon spacecraft,” said Rocket Lab founder and CEO, Peter Beck. “Space Systems is a rapidly growing part of Rocket Lab’s business, and we’re delighted to deliver another spacecraft that leverages our vertical integration strategy for high-quality and cost-effective satellite solutions on rapid timelines.”

“Rocket Lab has been an asset in developing and delivering this spacecraft on our schedule and budget,” said Varda Space Industries Chief Executive Officer, Will Bruey. “Our engineers at Varda and the Rocket Lab team have worked together seamlessly and are excited by the benefits this spacecraft will bring to Earth and healthcare.”

Rocket Lab’s Photon spacecraft is a configurable spacecraft bus platform that can support a range of missions – from low Earth orbit to interplanetary destinations. A high-energy variant of Photon was developed and launched by Rocket Lab in 2022, successfully deploying the CAPSTONE spacecraft to lunar orbit for NASA.

Click Here to Learn About Varda Space Industries Microgravity Research and Development Platform.

Click Here to Learn More About Photon Spacecraft Developed by Rocket Lab.

Publisher: SatNow

GNSS Constellations - A list of all GNSS satellites by constellations


Satellite NameOrbit Date
BeiDou-3 G4Geostationary Orbit (GEO)17 May, 2023
BeiDou-3 G2Geostationary Orbit (GEO)09 Mar, 2020
Compass-IGSO7Inclined Geosynchronous Orbit (IGSO)09 Feb, 2020
BeiDou-3 M19Medium Earth Orbit (MEO)16 Dec, 2019
BeiDou-3 M20Medium Earth Orbit (MEO)16 Dec, 2019
BeiDou-3 M21Medium Earth Orbit (MEO)23 Nov, 2019
BeiDou-3 M22Medium Earth Orbit (MEO)23 Nov, 2019
BeiDou-3 I3Inclined Geosynchronous Orbit (IGSO)04 Nov, 2019
BeiDou-3 M23Medium Earth Orbit (MEO)22 Sep, 2019
BeiDou-3 M24Medium Earth Orbit (MEO)22 Sep, 2019


Satellite NameOrbit Date
GSAT0223MEO - Near-Circular05 Dec, 2021
GSAT0224MEO - Near-Circular05 Dec, 2021
GSAT0219MEO - Near-Circular25 Jul, 2018
GSAT0220MEO - Near-Circular25 Jul, 2018
GSAT0221MEO - Near-Circular25 Jul, 2018
GSAT0222MEO - Near-Circular25 Jul, 2018
GSAT0215MEO - Near-Circular12 Dec, 2017
GSAT0216MEO - Near-Circular12 Dec, 2017
GSAT0217MEO - Near-Circular12 Dec, 2017
GSAT0218MEO - Near-Circular12 Dec, 2017


Satellite NameOrbit Date
Kosmos 2569--07 Aug, 2023
Kosmos 2564--28 Nov, 2022
Kosmos 2559--10 Oct, 2022
Kosmos 2557--07 Jul, 2022
Kosmos 2547--25 Oct, 2020
Kosmos 2545--16 Mar, 2020
Kosmos 2544--11 Dec, 2019
Kosmos 2534--27 May, 2019
Kosmos 2529--03 Nov, 2018
Kosmos 2527--16 Jun, 2018


Satellite NameOrbit Date
Navstar 82Medium Earth Orbit19 Jan, 2023
Navstar 81Medium Earth Orbit17 Jun, 2021
Navstar 78Medium Earth Orbit22 Aug, 2019
Navstar 77Medium Earth Orbit23 Dec, 2018
Navstar 76Medium Earth Orbit05 Feb, 2016
Navstar 75Medium Earth Orbit31 Oct, 2015
Navstar 74Medium Earth Orbit15 Jul, 2015
Navstar 73Medium Earth Orbit25 Mar, 2015
Navstar 72Medium Earth Orbit29 Oct, 2014
Navstar 71Medium Earth Orbit02 Aug, 2014


Satellite NameOrbit Date
NVS-01Geostationary Orbit (GEO)29 May, 2023
IRNSS-1IInclined Geosynchronous Orbit (IGSO)12 Apr, 2018
IRNSS-1HSub Geosynchronous Transfer Orbit (Sub-GTO)31 Aug, 2017
IRNSS-1GGeostationary Orbit (GEO)28 Apr, 2016
IRNSS-1FGeostationary Orbit (GEO)10 Mar, 2016
IRNSS-1EGeosynchronous Orbit (IGSO)20 Jan, 2016
IRNSS-1DInclined Geosynchronous Orbit (IGSO)28 Mar, 2015
IRNSS-1CGeostationary Orbit (GEO)16 Oct, 2014
IRNSS-1BInclined Geosynchronous Orbit (IGSO)04 Apr, 2014
IRNSS-1AInclined Geosynchronous Orbit (IGSO)01 Jul, 2013