Space

Lockheed Martin plans to build Starlab commercial space station by 2027

Lockheed Martin plans to build...
Nanorack's Starlab commercial space station
Nanorack's Starlab commercial space station
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Nanorack's Starlab commercial space station
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Nanorack's Starlab commercial space station
Starlab will serve the US government and privagte customers
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Starlab will serve the US government and privagte customers
Starlab will have four solar arrays
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Starlab will have four solar arrays
Starlab will have an inflatable habitat and a metallic docking node
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Starlab will have an inflatable habitat and a metallic docking node
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Lockheed Martin, Nanoracks, and Voyager Space have entered into a partnership to launch a permanently crewed commercial space station by 2027. Called Starlab, the semi-inflatable platform will be available to the US government and private industry.

With the International Space Station (ISS) slated for retirement and disposal by 2030, the United States is looking to private companies to provide replacements before that date under NASA's Commercial Low-Earth Orbit Destination (CLD) project. One of these stations is Starlab, which could be the first-ever free flying commercial space station.

The purpose of Starlab is to carry out a wide variety of activities, including general science, materials research, plant growth, astronaut training, and tourism. In addition, it will continue an American presence in space at a time when China is pursuing its own human spaceflight program.

Starlab will have an inflatable habitat and a metallic docking node
Starlab will have an inflatable habitat and a metallic docking node

Starlab's development will be led by commercial space services provider Nanoracks, with Voyager Space handling the business side. Lockheed Martin will build and operate the station. In its current iteration, it consists of a large inflatable habitat module and a metallic docking node. It will have a volume of 340 m3 (12,000 ft3) and four solar arrays totaling 60 kW. Meanwhile, a regenerative Environmental Control and Life Support System (ECLSS) will support a permanent crew of four astronauts plus visitors. There will also be a robotic arm to handle cargo ships and outside experiments.

"We’re excited to be part of such an innovative and capable team—one that allows each company to leverage their core strengths," says Lisa Callahan, vice president and general manager, Commercial Civil Space at Lockheed Martin. "Lockheed Martin’s extensive 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."

Starlab

Sources: Lockheed Martin, Nanoracks

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5 comments
5 comments
John
Is this another payload tout for using expendable Rockets by the "GROUP" or is there re-useable point to this, NASA should take a stand and create a 60% re-use program. Followed by a 2-3year planned stepped reduction of expendable rockets by 2% the "Group" would come to better decisions.
Username
An inflatable module and Bigelow Aerospace is not involved ? Is there a lawsuit coming ?
Smokey_Bear
Username - No. Bigelow is done, money troubles.
Sierra Space is now the most exciting company in the inflatable habitat game.
Being that no lawsuits have been levied at Sierra, I'm assuming no one is fringing on any patents.
Ralf Biernacki
Considering that the most urgent need for commercial space research is materials testing---long-term exposure of materials and mockups to open space environment to see how they last---this setup is very poorly designed. It lacks any open platforms and attachment points for exposing test rigs and specimens to space vacuum and radiation. Instead it appears they slavishly followed the Bigelow concept, in a more cramped package: an enclosed and shielded facility providing microgravity conditions only, and a wholly unnecessary habitation module. Presumably good for pharmaceutical production only---or for scientific basic research on lab animals and plants in microgravity, which is unlikely to be of interest to commercial ventures.

And yes, I also think they waited for Bigelow to go under before they proudly unveiled a reverse engineered copy of Bigelow design. It's just too similar. See https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/B330
Ralf Biernacki
To build any sort of industrial infrastructure in space---asteroid mining and the subsequent processing , refining, storage, and transport of raw materials, including metals and volatiles; manufacturing and assembly of truss structures; assembly and operation of powerplants; etc., there are two essential primary requirements. First, reliable machinery capable of long-term operation in space with minimum maintenance, and second, reliable control systems with space-hardened monitoring instruments, valves, actuators, power supplies, and processors. Remember, in space there is no maintenance and no service crews; the cost of sending astronauts to repair a malfunctioning facility is exorbitant, not to mention the delays.

So all of these components and machinery elements must first be extensively tested under space conditions in order to have some sort of certification for reliable operation in space, just as oil rig systems are specially tested and certified for marine conditions. The primary purpose of a commercial space lab should be the testing of these elements; companies would pay for test space square footage on an orbiting platform equipped with a power supply and external monitoring of test setups. But this sort of rentable lab platform would look completely different than the inflatable facility in this article. Most likely it would take the form of a long truss or flat exposed platform, or several heated or unheated platforms with different solar orientation, and solar panels to supply power to the entire lab. Standardized attachment points on the mast/platform, with a robot arm to install and uninstall customers' modules. No habitation module, and no long-term human presence---ideally no local human presence at all, from launch to recovery (or disposal) of modules.