The French aerospace company Airbus and U.S.-based Voyager Space said in January they will begin working even closer to build a private version of the International Space Station ISS. The project is among three pre-selected by NASA to become a possible commercial successor to the ISS.
While shareholdings and financial details were not disclosed, Airbus will now become a core partner in the newly planned initiative to develop, build and operate the orbital research post, expanding Europe's role in the project.
Starlab is one of three private spaces created to replace the aging ISS, a football field-sized orbital laboratory that has consistently housed crews for more than 22 years.
The original plan of the orbiter was designed with an inflatable habitat designed by Lockheed Martin, but after the switch to the new structure, Lockheed's role has been replaced by Airbus, which built the Columbus module for the ISS.
The CEO of Voyager Space, Dylan Taylor, CEO of Lockheed, said Lockheed will likely still have a role to play somewhere within the supply chain. Lockheed remains an important customer for Voyager and Starlab will remain U.S.-led, he said.
There will be contributions coming from Europe, but there will definitely be an assembly and large contributions coming from the U.S. Voyager, through its subsidiary Nanoracks, in 2021 to support Starlab development under NASA's Commercial Low Earth Orbit Development program.
Under the program, Axiom Space and a team led by Jeff Bezos' Blue Origin are developing rival stations.
In 2030, NASA plans to retire the ISS and rely on private firms to conduct its scientific experiments in low-Earth orbit.
It will happen before the ISS decommissioning, and we are highly confident of that. We are still working out those details, he said, Whether it's going to be late 2027, early 2028, or late 2028.
Voyager Space and Airbus have said Starlab will be ready for deployment in 2028. The launch provider is expected to be announced in the near future.