Airbus joins mission to replace ISS

Airbus joins mission to replace ISS

Introducing Starlab: A Transatlantic Collaboration for the Future of Space

International Space Station

As the iconic International Space Station (ISS) approaches its retirement, the spotlight is shifting towards its potential successor: Starlab. Airbus, a renowned European aerospace manufacturer, and Voyager, a promising US startup, recently announced a joint venture to develop, build, and operate Starlab. This ambitious project aims to serve as a commercial replacement for the ISS and further unite the United States and Europe in their pursuit of space exploration.

A New Era of European and American Leadership

“This pioneers continued European and American leadership in space that takes humanity forward,” says Jean-Marc Nasr, Head of Space Systems at Airbus. The collaboration between Airbus and Voyager signifies a pivotal moment as both teams focus their efforts on creating an unmatched space destination, technologically and as a business operation. The shared vision is to establish Starlab as a significant space outpost that pushes the boundaries of exploration.

Serving Global Space Agencies and Commercial Users

Starlab’s primary objective is to meet the known demand from global space agencies while also opening new opportunities for commercial users. With the retirement of the ISS on the horizon in 2031, the need for a reliable and technologically advanced replacement becomes increasingly essential. The new space station will play a crucial role in supporting the endeavors of both NASA and the European Space Agency (ESA).

The Competition for Succession

While Starlab is a leading contender, it faces tough competition from other ambitious projects vying to replace the ISS. Jeff Bezos’ Blue Origin has proposed Orbital Reef, a visionary concept resembling a “mixed-use business park” in space. Another contender, Northrop Grumman, plans to construct a modular, free-flying space station. These three projects received funding from NASA, highlighting the agency’s commitment to finding a commercially viable solution for the future of space exploration.

In December 2021, Voyager received $160 million (€146 million) in funding from NASA, while Orbital Reef secured $130 million (€119 million), and Northrop Grumman’s project received $125.6 million (€115 million). As a condition of NASA’s support, each proposal had to demonstrate commercial viability. Now, the space agency will evaluate the contenders and determine which projects merit further backing and development.

The Promise of Starlab

Starlab represents a joint effort between Airbus, a global leader in aerospace technology, and Voyager, an up-and-coming player in the space industry. This collaboration not only fuels the ambition to conquer new frontiers of space exploration and research but also strengthens transatlantic ties. Starlab’s potential extends beyond scientific advancements, aiming to create new possibilities for commercial ventures in space.

With its cutting-edge technology, Starlab aims to surpass the capabilities of its predecessor, the ISS. The new space station will serve as a pivotal hub for research, experimentation, and international collaborations. It will offer a versatile platform for astronauts, scientists, and entrepreneurs to explore further, foster innovation, and unlock the economic potential of space. By seamlessly blending technological advancements with commercial viability, Starlab is poised to become a prominent hub for space activities in the coming years.

Looking to the Future

As the International Space Station approaches retirement, the emergence of Starlab and its competitors marks an exciting era for space exploration. These ambitious projects reflect a collective effort to push the boundaries of human achievement, unify global space agencies, and pave the way for commercial ventures in space. The race to establish the next generation of space stations showcases the significance of international collaboration and technological advancements in shaping humanity’s future beyond Earth.