In a major stride towards advancing space exploration and fostering international cooperation, Voyager Space and Airbus Defence and Space have announced a groundbreaking joint venture focused on the design, construction, and operation of the Starlab commercial space station. This landmark collaboration between the American and European aerospace giants marks a significant uptick in Airbus’ commitment and aims to attract European government partnerships for the ambitious project.
The genesis of the joint venture can be traced back to January when Voyager Space and Airbus revealed their partnership, with Airbus set to provide “technical design support and expertise” for the Starlab space station. Although details were scarce at the time, the recent announcement sheds light on the substantial investment and dedication both companies are bringing to the table.
The joint venture, based in the United States, will have a European subsidiary explicitly catering to the European Space Agency (ESA) and its member state space agencies. This strategic move allows the project to have a broader international scope and encourages cross-border collaboration in the realm of space exploration.
Starlab, envisioned by Denver-based Voyager Space, is an ambitious endeavor that aims to establish a commercial space station by 2028, a full three years ahead of the planned decommissioning of the International Space Station (ISS). This forward-looking approach positions Starlab as a potential successor to the ISS, paving the way for new opportunities in space research, technology, and human exploration.
The shift towards private industry taking the lead in space exploration has been endorsed by NASA, which seeks to encourage innovation and competition within the commercial space sector. In December 2021, NASA awarded more than $400 million in agreements to three major private space station projects, with Voyager’s Starlab plans receiving $160 million, reaffirming its potential as a key player in the post-ISS era.
The imminent decommissioning of the ISS in 2030 will impact not only NASA but also all international partners currently utilizing the ISS for space research. These partners will now need to engage with private companies when booking space, a paradigm shift in space utilization that will be facilitated by companies like Voyager Space and Airbus Defence and Space.
The involvement of Airbus in the Starlab project brings an added dimension to the venture, as a European-based company’s participation is likely to resonate positively with European governments and taxpayers. The Starlab space station may emerge as a potential hub for European-led space research and collaboration, aligning with ESA’s vision for the future of space exploration.
“The International Space Station is widely regarded as the most successful platform for global cooperation in space history, and we are committed to building on this legacy as we move forward with Starlab,” stated Matthew Kuta, President of Voyager Space, underscoring the venture’s commitment to continued international cooperation.
Table: NASA’s Private Space Station Projects Funding (December 2021)
|Project||Funding Amount (USD)|
|Voyager’s Starlab||$160 million|
|Blue Origin’s Orbital Reef||$130 million|
|Northrop Grumman’s project||$125.6 million|
The partnership between Voyager Space and Airbus Defence and Space represents a pivotal moment in the commercial space industry, ushering in new opportunities for scientific research, technological innovation, and international collaboration beyond the ISS era. As the joint venture takes flight, the world eagerly awaits the next chapter in humanity’s journey among the stars, with Starlab poised to play a leading role in shaping the future of space exploration.