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Varda blocked from bringing its capsule back to Earth by FAA

Varda has been forced to delay the first return of its capsule from space, loaded with a drug designed to treat HIV/AIDS that can only be manufactured in weightlessness, because the FAA has so far refused to issue “a re-entry license,” a new regulatory power grab the FAA instituted two years ago supposedly to “streamline the launch and reentry licensing process.”

This new language, which I was unaware of and know of no Congressional act approving it, has done exactly the opposite.

A key issue, he said, is that Varda is the first to seek a reentry license under new FAA regulations known as Part 450. Those regulations were enacted by the FAA more than two years ago to streamline the launch and reentry licensing process.

…For the commercial launch industry, the Part 450 regulations have become an area of concern. Only a handful of Part 450 launch licenses have been issued to date as the FAA begins a transition to the new regulations, but those licenses have taken longer to complete than expected, in some cases missing a 180-day statutory deadline. Industry officials raised the issue at a July 13 hearing of the House Science Committee and at a July 11 meeting of an FAA advisory group, the Commercial Space Transportation Advisory Committee. [emphasis mine]

The highlighted language says it all. It also suggests these new regulations, apparently written by the FAA and not Congress, might be contributing to the delays being experienced by SpaceX in its attempt to do test launches of its Starship/Superheavy rocket.

Varda is presently hoping to return the capsule in mid-August. It had begun this re-entry licensing process in early 2021 — more than two years ago — and still does not have that approval. Its business plan is to make money by manufacturing things in weightlessness that can’t be made on Earth — such as this HIV drug — and returning those items to Earth for sale.

Such a plan can’t work if the federal administrative state stands in the way.

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  • Ming O'Mongo

    For the Swamp it’s a feature, not a bug.

  • markedup2

    in some cases missing a 180-day statutory deadline

    Whatever that is, it’s clearly not a “deadline”.

  • pzatchok

    Well the left is saying that any law they do not agree with should just be ignored.

  • pawn

    What happens if they just bring it down on their own. Do they have to tell anyone? This is crazy.

    Obviously they haven’t spent enough money in DC.

  • Jeff Wright

    They watched Andromeda Strain and got spooked.
    Meanwhile Fauci’s replacement is cooking up the Satan Bug down here.

  • Cotour

    Was the experiment to produce the drug in weightlessness successful?

    If so, this is probably why they are dragging it out.

    ” Its business plan is to make money by manufacturing things in weightlessness that can’t be made on Earth — such as this HIV drug — and returning those items to Earth for sale.”

    Off the top of my head and not really knowing much about the issue: Follow the money, who benefits by it not returning from space and thus proving the concept and their ability to produce drugs in space?

    The wrong drug company will benefit?

    Is Pfizer or Moderna involved?

    Sound reasonable?

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