Airbus joins Starlab Orbital Station Project

Airbus Defense and Space has announced the joining of the commercial orbital station Starlab to the project. This step may help to simplify the access of European countries to near-Earth orbit after the completion of the ISS operation.

Starlab Orbital Station

The Starlab station project was announced in October 2021. It is being developed by a team consisting of Nanoracks, its main shareholder Voyager Space and Lockheed Martin. They plan to create a station consisting of an inflatable living module, power and propulsion compartments, a laboratory installation and a robotic arm manipulator.

The concept of the Starlab orbital station. Source: Nanoracks/Lockheed Martin/Voyager Space

The Starlab crew will consist of four astronauts. They will be engaged in both scientific research and commercial operations. Space tourists will also be able to visit Starlab. At the moment, the launch of the station is scheduled for 2027.

New project participants

In December 2021, NASA selected three promising projects of commercial orbital stations that could replace the ISS. Among them was Starlab. The team of its creators received USD 160 million for the preliminary design of the station.

Image of the future Starlab space station. Source: Nanoracks

In September 2022, Hilton became a participant in the project. It was announced that the company would build accommodations for future visitors to the station. Now Airbus has joined the developers. The company will be engaged in technical support of the project and expertise of the design of the station.

The participation of Airbus may encourage Europe to invest more actively in the creation of infrastructure that will allow it to provide independent access to near-Earth orbit. In particular, we can talk about their own manned spacecraft. In the past decades, ESA has considered several similar projects, but none of them has received the green light. Starlab can change that.

It is worth noting that Airbus is not the first European company participating in a project to create a commercial orbital station. So, Thales Alenia Space is engaged in the construction of modules commissioned by Axiom Space. Initially, they will be part of the ISS, but later they will be undocked from the complex and will become the core of a new commercial station.

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