Space services provider Nanoracks, in collaboration with Voyager Space and Lockheed Martin, has announced plans to develop the first-ever free flying commercial space station.
The space station, known as Starlab, will be a continuously crewed commercial platform, dedicated to conducting critical research, fostering industrial activity, and ensuring continued US presence and leadership in low-Earth orbit.
Starlab is expected to achieve initial operational capability by 2027, and is being developed to enable the growing space economy and meet customer demand for space services such as materials research, plant growth, and astronaut activity.
“Since the beginning, Nanoracks has sought to own and operate a private space station to fully unlock market demand,” said Jeffrey Manber, CEO and co-founder of Nanoracks. “Our team has spent the last decade learning the business of space stations, understanding customer needs, charting market growth, and self-investing in private hardware on the ISS [International Space Station] like the Bishop Airlock.”
Nanoracks will lead the Starlab development effort. Voyager Space, the majority shareholder in Nanoracks, will lead strategy and capital investment and Lockheed Martin, a leader in developing and operating complex spacecraft, will serve as the manufacturer and technical integrator.
The basic elements of the Starlab space station include a large inflatable habitat, designed and built by Lockheed Martin, a metallic docking node, a power and propulsion element, a large robotic arm for servicing cargo and payloads, and a state-of-the-art laboratory system to host a comprehensive research, science, and manufacturing capability. Starlab will be able to continuously host up to four astronauts for conducting critical science and research.
“We’re excited to be part of such an innovative and capable team—one that allows each company to leverage their core strengths,” said Lisa Callahan, vice president and general manager, commercial civil space at Lockheed Martin. “Lockheed Martin’s experience in building complex spacecraft and systems, coupled with Nanoracks’ commercial business innovation and Voyager’s financial expertise allows our team to create a customer-focused space station that will fuel our future vision. We have invested significantly in habitat technology which enables us to propose a cost-effective, mission-driven spacecraft design for Starlab.”
Nanoracks’ Starlab business model is designed to enable science, research, and manufacturing for global customers, and bring added value to long-duration sovereign astronaut missions. Starlab will also serve tourism and other commercial and business activities.