July 20, 2024

ESA, Airbus & Voyager Space Join Forces for Future Starlab Space Station

European Space Agency (ESA), Airbus Defence and Space, and Voyager Space have recently signed a technology agreement that unveils their plans for space exploration and exploitation after the retirement of the International Space Station (ISS). With the ISS scheduled to be decommissioned in 2030 and subsequently deorbited, the focus now shifts towards developing a fleet of smaller outposts operated by various government and private agencies.

During the ESA Space Summit in Seville, the partners signed a trilateral Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) that outlines the future low Earth orbit missions and introduces the Starlab space station as its centerpiece. Compared to the ISS, the Starlab is a smaller outpost that benefits from decades worth of technological advancements. Preliminary released images depict a large habitat module with spacecraft berths, universal docking systems, a service module with areas for securing equipment and experiments, and a robot arm. Additionally, the station will feature a module with thrusters for station keeping and solar arrays for power generation.

The ultimate goal is to create a complete ecosystem similar to NASA’s infrastructure, capable of supporting the operational needs of the orbital outpost. This includes the development of spacecraft for cargo and crew transportation to and from the station, catering to both government and commercial clients.

Matt Kuta, President of Voyager Space, emphasized the importance of the agreement with the European Space Agency, stating, “This agreement with the European Space Agency is critical as we continue to foster international collaboration in the space domain and move towards succeeding the International Space Station with Starlab. We look forward to working with Airbus and ESA to extend Europe’s footprint in space and ensure they remain a leader in the new generation of commercial space exploration.”

The collaboration between ESA, Airbus Defence and Space, and Voyager Space demonstrates a shared commitment to advancing space research and exploration beyond the lifetime of the ISS. By introducing the concept of a smaller but technologically advanced outpost like the Starlab, the partners aim to pave the way for future space missions and establish Europe’s role as a prominent player in commercial space exploration. With the retirement of the ISS on the horizon, the focus now shifts towards developing new space stations and fostering international collaboration to ensure the seamless transition and continuation of scientific breakthroughs in space.

1. Source: Coherent Market Insights, Public sources, Desk research
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