Earlier this month, SpaceX launched the first space factory into orbit aboard a Falcon 9 rocket. This factory has already begun working on creating drugs under zero gravity. The allure of making drugs and even other things in zero gravity isn’t new, and since 2019, scientists aboard the International Space Station have been working to find more stable ways to make some drugs.
One important experiment allowed scientists aboard the ISS recreate cancer drug Keytruda using a stable method. They could administer the drug via a shot rather than an intravenous infusion. This is because the particles that were used to create the drug behaved in a different way under lower gravity.
Now, Elon Musk and others hope to recapture that process in the very first space factory that we’ve put into orbit. The factory is owned and operated by Varda Space Industries, according to reports by Big Think. Once it is properly tested, the device will begin heating and cooling ritonavir in order to observe how its crystals form in space.
Thank you to Transporter-8 for letting us hitch a ride to space.More updates here soon as we work towards our next mission milestones! pic.twitter.com/HI8MYNrh01
— Varda Space Industries (@VardaSpace) June 13, 2023
After a month in space, Varda plans to bring that first factory back down to Earth, where it’ll safely land at the Department of Defense’s Utah Test and Training Range, providing valuable insight into the future of making things in space. Varda Space Industries and other companies plan to launch other space factories to create other items such as fiber optic cables, or to produce other drugs.
The goal is to utilize the first space factories to see how we can maximize the stability and production of different things by removing the force of gravity from the situation. Of course, we’ll still need to see how those items react when they are transported back down to Earth, but if we can find more stable ways to create some of the most needed drugs, that’s a huge win for medical research all around.
Space has also proven effective at growing other things too, like when the ISS grew spicy food to see how it would handle low-gravity environments. It’s unclear if these space factories will look more like the stations we expect to see from Axiom Space and others (which is pictured in the header), or if they will be smaller, like satellites.
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