ESA, Airbus and Voyager Space sign an MOU for Starlab Space Station.
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November 09, 2023 – The agreement outlines the parties’ intention to foster science and technology development and explore collaboration in low-earth orbit destinations other than the International Space Station.
The collaboration will initially focus on exploring opportunities for access to space for Europe through the Starlab space station. These could include:
- Access to the Starlab space station for ESA and its Member States for astronaut missions and research activities as well as commercial business development.
- Contributions to research projects on upcoming missions, using European technology, and advancing European science—from advanced robotics and artificial intelligence to life sciences and more
- Establishment of a complete ‘end-to-end’ system with the Starlab space station as a low Earth orbit destination and a potential ESA-developed European cargo and crew transportation system
European astronauts have been going to the International Space Station for over 20 years, offering European scientists access to a weightless environment via ESA’s Columbus laboratory.
The memorandum of understanding signed reflects ESA’s ambition for a smooth transition from the International Space Station towards sustained exploitation of human and robotic infrastructures in low Earth orbit after 2030, including through commercial services.
At the ESA Space Summit in Seville, ESA Director General Josef Aschbacher, President of Voyager Space Matthew Kuta and Head of Space Systems at Airbus Jean-Marc Nasr signed a Memorandum of Understanding to outline future collaboration for the Starlab Space Station once the International Space Station (ISS) is decommissioned.
The trilateral agreement outlines the intention to commonly foster science and technology development and explore the potential for collaboration in conjunction with post-ISS low-Earth orbit destinations.
This agreement reflects ESA’s ambition to enable a smooth transition of its activities on the ISS towards the sustained exploitation of human and robotic infrastructures in low-Earth orbit in the next decade, including through commercial services.
“ESA appreciates the transatlantic industry initiative for the commercial Starlab space station and the potential that its strong European footprint holds for significant European industrial and institutional contributions to, and use of, said station,” said Josef Aschbacher, ESA Director General. “Our teams are looking forward to working closely with the Starlab teams here in Europe and in the US.”
“This agreement with ESA is critical as we continue to foster international collaboration in the space domain and move towards succeeding the International Space Station with Starlab,” said Matthew Kuta, President of Voyager Space. “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.”
“At Airbus, we are very pleased that ESA is continuing to look to the future and demonstrating such a keen interest in Starlab,” said Mike Schoellhorn, CEO of Airbus, “Our collaboration on this next-generation space station builds on a long and successful partnership between ESA and Airbus in developing and operating a wide range of crewed and uncrewed spacecraft.”
In the past, Airbus has supplied ESA with iconic spacecraft such as the International Space Station’s Columbus Module, five Automated Transfer Vehicles that flew to the International Space Station and most recently the European Service Module for Orion, Europe’s contribution to NASA’s Artemis missions to the Moon.
Starlab is a commercial space station intended to serve as a successor to the International Space Station. The space station will be developed, built, owned and operated by “Starlab Space”, a joint venture between Airbus and Voyager Space. Starlab is expected to launch as soon as 2028, with commercial operations due to start in 2029.
Starlab Space LLC is a planned transatlantic joint venture between Voyager Space and Airbus that is designing, building and will operate the Starlab commercial space station. Starlab will serve a global customer base of space agencies, researchers and companies, ensuring a continued human presence in low-Earth orbit and a seamless transition of microgravity science and research from the ISS into the new commercial space station era.
In August 2023, Voyager and Airbus first announced an agreement to form a transatlantic joint venture to support a continuous human presence in low-Earth orbit and a seamless transition of microgravity science and research opportunities in the post-ISS era. Starlab is also expected to have a European affiliated joint venture to directly serve the European Space Agency and its member state space agencies.