Space Commerce

Rocket Lab Spacecraft Built for Varda Successfully Operating on Orbit

By Keith Cowing
Press Release
Rocket Lab
June 14, 2023
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Rocket Lab Spacecraft Built for Varda Successfully Operating on Orbit
Rocket Lab
Rocket Lab

Rocket Lab USA, Inc. (Nasdaq: RKLB) (“Rocket Lab” or “the Company”), a global leader in launch services and space systems, today announced its spacecraft for Varda Space Industries (“Varda”), a leading in-space manufacturing and hypersonic re-entry logistics company, is successfully operating on orbit after launching from Vandenberg Space Force Base today on SpaceX’s Transporter-8 mission at 14:35 PDT (21:35 UTC).

The spacecraft was developed, manufactured, and tested at Rocket Lab’s Spacecraft Production Facility in Long Beach, California, and it incorporates Rocket Lab-designed and manufactured components and software including star trackers, propulsion system, reaction wheels, solar panels, flight software, radios, composite structures and tanks, and separation systems.

Now successfully operating on orbit, the 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. Upon completion of the in-space manufacturing phase of Varda’s mission, Rocket Lab’s spacecraft will place Varda’s hypersonic re-entry capsule (carrying finished pharmaceuticals on board) on a return trajectory to Earth. The spacecraft is the first of four ordered by Varda to support in-space pharmaceutical manufacturing, with the second spacecraft currently undergoing assembly, integration, and testing.

“Congratulations to our Space Systems team and to Varda on the start of an incredibly exciting and important mission,” said Brad Clevenger, Vice President, Rocket Lab Space Systems. “From technology demonstration missions in low Earth orbit to complex missions to the Moon, and now in-space manufacturing, Rocket Lab spacecraft are enabling innovation on orbit. By leveraging our deep vertical integration across Space Systems we’ve been able to deliver a high-quality spacecraft to Varda on a rapid timeline to accelerate their mission and we look forward to delivering many more.”

“We’re thrilled to have partnered with Rocket Lab on our first demonstration mission,” said Nicholas Cialdella, Head of Vehicles at Varda. “Varda has managed to go from opening our office doors to a first flight in just two and a half years. In addition to the incredible team we have at Varda, one of the key enablers to this speed was because we could focus on our core expertise, re-entry, and manufacturing, while leveraging Rocket Lab’s Photon spacecraft platform.”

The Varda spacecraft are part of a growing list of complete satellites in development by Rocket Lab, including a $143 million subcontract by MDA to lead the design and manufacture of 17 spacecraft buses for Globalstar’s new Low Earth Orbit satellites. Leveraging the Company’s vertically integrated space systems capabilities, Rocket Lab spacecraft incorporate components and subsystems produced in-house to deliver cost efficiencies and accelerated production timelines. Rocket Lab components and subsystems have been successfully flown on more than 1,000 spacecraft globally.

  • About Rocket Lab

Founded in 2006, Rocket Lab is an end-to-end space company with an established track record of mission success. We deliver reliable launch services, satellite manufacture, spacecraft components, and on-orbit management solutions that make it faster, easier and more affordable to access space. Headquartered in Long Beach, California, Rocket Lab designs and manufactures the Electron small orbital launch vehicle, the Photon satellite platform and the Company is developing the large Neutron launch vehicle for constellation deployment. Since its first orbital launch in January 2018, Rocket Lab’s Electron launch vehicle has become the second most frequently launched U.S. rocket annually and has delivered 163 satellites to orbit for private and public sector organizations, enabling operations in national security, scientific research, space debris mitigation, Earth observation, climate monitoring, and communications. Rocket Lab’s Photon spacecraft platform has been selected to support NASA missions to the Moon and Mars, as well as the first private commercial mission to Venus. Rocket Lab has three launch pads at two launch sites, including two launch pads at a private orbital launch site located in New Zealand and a third launch pad in Virginia. To learn more, visit

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