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IPFS News Link • Space Travel and Exploration

SpaceX's Starship to launch 'Starlab' private space station in late 2020s

•, By Mike Wall

The stars were aligned for this launch deal.

The team behind the Starlab private space station project announced today (Jan. 31) that it has selected SpaceX's giant Starship rocket to get its outpost off the ground.

"SpaceX's history of success and reliability led our team to select Starship to orbit Starlab," Dylan Taylor, chairman and CEO of Voyager Space, said in a statement. "SpaceX is the unmatched leader for high-cadence launches, and we are proud Starlab will be launched to orbit in a single flight by Starship." 

Today's announcement didn't give a target launch date. But NASA and Starlab's developers want the four-person commercial station to be up and running before 2030, when the International Space Station (ISS) is expected to cease operations (though that retirement date is apparently not set in stone).

Indeed, NASA has been encouraging the development of private outposts for several years now, so its astronauts will continue to have somewhere to live and work in low Earth orbit after the ISS is gone.

In December 2021, the agency announced it was awarding a total of $415 million to three different companies — Blue Origin, Nanoracks (which is part of Voyager Space) and Northrop Grumman — to help mature their commercial space station concepts. NASA also holds a separate agreement with Houston company Axiom Space, which is working on its own private outpost. 

Things have changed a bit since then. For example, Northrop Grumman decided to cease work on its station and join the Voyager Space team, which also brought European aerospace giant Airbus on board. Voyager and Airbus formed a joint venture called Starlab Space LLC, which will build and operate the Starlab station.