Space exploration giant Voyager Space and Airbus have officially concluded the establishment of Starlab Space, marking the completion of a transatlantic joint venture dedicated to the design, construction and operation of the Starlab commercial space station.

The Starlab team also concluded the System Definition Review (SDR) for the proposed station, assessing both technical and programmatic aspects of the program.

Matthew Kuta, president of Voyager Space, expressed confidence in their role as pioneers of the commercial space revolution, stating, “With our joint venture alongside Airbus, teaming agreements with Northrop Grumman and Hilton, and the consistent attainment of critical milestones, Starlab is setting a new benchmark for commercial space.”

The joint venture was first announced in August 2023, with the aim of supporting a continual human presence in low-Earth orbit and research opportunities in the post-International Space Station era.

Subsequently, Voyager Space announced a collaboration with Northrop Grumman in October 2023, focusing on the development of fully autonomous rendezvous and docking technology for Northrop Grumman’s Cygnus spacecraft, along with providing cargo resupply services for Starlab.

Jean-Marc Nasr, head of space systems at Airbus, highlighted the global significance of Starlab, stating, “The International Space Station fostered unprecedented global cooperation in space. Starlab will follow suit.”

Beyond its presence in the US, Starlab is expected to establish a European-affiliated joint venture to directly serve the European Space Agency and its member state space agencies.

Nanoracks LLC, a component of Voyager Space’s exploration segment, received the largest of three commercial Low-Earth Orbit Destinations Space Act Agreements from NASA in December 2021, laying the groundwork for the creation of Starlab.

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This continuously crewed, free-flying space station is designed to cater to NASA and a global customer base of space agencies and researchers.

Over the past year, the Starlab team has made significant strides, culminating in the successful completion of the SDR, as well as earlier achievements such as the on-orbit science park and the station-level System Requirements Review.

In 2022, the space economy was valued at approximately $450bn by research company GlobalData which predicts it could be worth between $760bn and $1trn by 2030. 

GlobalData’s Thematic Intelligence: Space Economy 2023 report found that the industry had seen a recent influx of startups and privately owned companies. Investor interest, clear market gaps and technological advancements were the main factors credited to this.