Starlab, planned to be operational by 2027, will support people in a large inflatable habitat, which will be built by Lockheed Martin. It will also feature a metallic docking node, a 60kW power and propulsion element, and a large robotic arm for servicing cargo and external payloads.
An onboard laboratory system will host research, science, and a manufacturing capability.
The Low Earth Orbit (LEO) Starlab is part of NASA’s efforts to commercialize space through its LEO Development Program. It will also provide science and crew capabilities prior to the retirement of the International Space Station (ISS).
Amela Wilson, CEO at Houston, Texas-based space company Nanoracks said, “While today marks a major milestone for Nanoracks and our Starlab team, the impact goes far beyond this award.
“To receive this support from NASA validates over a decade of Nanoracks’ hard work forging commercial access to space, bringing over 1300 commercial payloads from 30 nations to the ISS. This opportunity opens far-reaching possibilities for critical research and commercial industrial activity in LEO.”
The initial $160 million award to Nanoracks is made via a funded Space Act Agreement through 2025. This initial NASA-provided funding will be supplemented with customer pre-buy opportunities and public-private partnerships,
Starlab is planned to reach initial operating capability in 2027, which ensures a continuous US presence in LEO.
“Starlab is the confluence of Lockheed Martin’s rich space expertise and history, Nanoracks’ innovation, and Voyager’s financial savvy. This team is equipped to aid NASA on its mission to expand access to LEO and to enable a transformative commercial space economy,” said Lisa Callahan, vice president and general manager, Commercial Civil Space at Lockheed Martin.