A consortium of entities associated with the Nanoracks company will be responsible for the planned construction of the first independent space station with commercial use (called Starlab). Voyager Space and Lockheed Martin have so far confirmed their commitment to cooperation.
Starlab is intended to be a permanently manned 340 cubic meter orbital platform designed to conduct research, support industrial activities and “ensure continued American presence” in Low Earth Orbit (LEO). Starlab is expected to reach initial operational capability by the end of 2027.
To meet the expectations of the US government, the international community and the market needs, Starlab is to offer the possibility of conducting advanced experiments in space, including research on materials, plants and health of people staying at the station. “From the outset, Nanoracks sought to own and operate a private space station to fully meet market demand,” said Jeffrey Manber, CEO and Co-Founder of Nanoracks. “Our team has spent the last decade exploring the subject, building understanding of customer needs, tracking market developments and investing in private ISS equipment such as Bishop Airlock,” he added.
The Starlab project is also to be correlated with the assumptions signaled by NASA for the future maintenance of a manned presence in orbit. The US space agency recently announced the Commercial Low-Earth Orbit Destination (CLD) project to support the development of private space stations. CLD will stimulate the multi-faceted use of LEO and provide opportunities for science research before the International Space Station (ISS) is decommissioned.
As a leader of the Starlab project, Nanoracks will benefit from over ten years of experience from being involved in the operation of the ISS. Voyager Space, the majority shareholder of Nanoracks, will lead the strategy and equity investments, with Lockheed Martin serving as contractor and technical integrator.
The basic elements of the Starlab space station are to include: designed and built by Lockheed Martin a large inflatable housing module (habitat), in which the crew will be staying; metal docking node; power and drive segment; large robotic arm for loading and unloading; and a laboratory for carrying out various research, scientific and engineering operations. Starlab will be able to host up to four crew members continuously.
“Lockheed Martin’s expertise in the production of complex space vehicles and systems, coupled with Nanoracks’ commercial business innovation and Voyager’s financial expertise, will enable our team to create a customer-centric space station that will drive our vision for the future,” said Lisa Callahan, vice president and general manager Commercial Civil Space at Lockheed Martin. “We have invested heavily in habitat technology, which allows us to offer a cost-effective and mission-oriented project for Starlab,” she assured.
The project aims to provide customers around the world with access to research in the field of science and production, and the possibility of organizing sovereign manned space missions. Starlab will also serve tourism and other commercial and business activities in space. “Voyager Space is very confident in Starlab’s business model and its ability to be commercially balanced over the long term,” assured Dylan Taylor, Voyager Space president and CEO.
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Plan to build the first commercial space station. Companies join forces