SpaceX’s Starship to launch Starlab commercial space station in late 2020s

Starlab Space, a joint venture between two aerospace companies, Voyager Space and Airbus, announced on January 31, 2024, that they have selected SpaceX’s Starship to launch the Starlab commercial space station to low-Earth orbit (LEO).

An illustration of the Starlab commercial space station, which will be launched through a SpaceX Starship rocket
An illustration of the Starlab commercial space station, which will be launched through a SpaceX Starship rocket. (Image credit: Voyager Space)

Starship, a next-generation fully reusable transportation system of SpaceX, will launch the entire Starlab space station on a single mission (on a single flight) before the retirement of the International Space Station.

Starship's successful liftoff during its second test flight
The 121-meter-tall Starship rocket during its second flight test in November 2023. (Image credit: SpaceX)

Starship is the world’s most powerful rocket ever built, capable of carrying up to 150 metric tons. It is designed to carry both crew and cargo to Earth orbit, the Moon, Mars and beyond. Currently, the rocket is not yet operational and its test flight is underway. 

Currently, the Starlab space station is scheduled to launch in 2028, and the International Space Station is scheduled to cease operations in 2030.

“SpaceX’s history of success and reliability led our team to select Starship to orbit Starlab,” said Dylan Taylor, Chairman and CEO, Voyager Space. “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.”

The team of Starlab Space is currently designing and building the Starlab commercial space station. It will be a continuously crewed, free-flying space station in low-Earth orbit (LEO) capable of hosting four crew members at a time.

NASA awarded $160 million to Nanoracks LLC (a part of Voyager Space aerospace company) to build the Starlab commercial space station. It will serve a global customer base of space agencies, researchers, and companies, ensuring a continued human presence in low-Earth orbit after the retirement of the International Space Station.

Once Starlab is in orbit, all scientific and advanced research instruments will be transferred seamlessly from the International Space Station to the new commercial space station.

“Starlab’s single-launch solution continues to demonstrate not only what is possible, but how the future of commercial space is happening now,” said Tom Ochinero, Senior Vice President of Commercial Business at SpaceX. “The SpaceX team is excited for Starship to launch Starlab to support humanity’s continued presence in low-Earth orbit on our way to making life multiplanetary.”

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Ashim

Ashim Chandra Sarkar founded Space & Telescope in 2022. He holds a M.Sc. in physics and has five years of research experience in optical astronomy. His passion for astronomy inspired him to open this website. He is responsible for the editorial vision of spaceandtelescope.com.

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