Unveiled plans for a space station designed to be a tourist destination and research center, which certainly ranks among the most interesting projects carried out so far in the space architecture sector.
The outpost is designed to be a tourist destination and a research and manufacturing center that will help foster the growth of an off-Earth economy, confirming that we must increasingly consider this as one of the driving sectors of the economy of the future.
Starlab will consist of two modules, namely a docking node with an inflatable module attached to one side, and a service module, which will provide power and propulsion, attached to the other side.
The total pressurized space will be 340 cubic meters, about a third of the International Space Station, while 22 cubic meters will be available for the various payloads, as for the ISS, measures that are definitely large for a station with only two modules and that testify to how extensive the expandable module will be.
This will be built by Lockheed Martin and will represent the primary environment of the station. In addition, there will be an additional steel element, useful for docking cargo, and capsules with astronauts.
The station will also be equipped with a propulsion element and a robotic arm, necessary to manage the cargo supplies arriving from Earth and for experiments to be performed outside the outpost. This will accommodate up to four astronauts at a time and will generate 60kW of electrical power.
Nanoracks also announced that it will be possible to transport Starlab in orbit in a single launch and this will greatly lower development costs, being able to avoid several launches and assembly operations in orbit. All this will be possible thanks to the use of the expandable module.
Starlab will have a state-of-the-art laboratory system to host scientific research and experiments, both for NASA and private companies. The main module will be divided into four scientific compartments: one dedicated to research in biology, one as a laboratory and space greenhouse for plant plants, a laboratory for physical sciences and materials research and a more open and variable work area.
The labs aboard Starlab, like those run by Nanoracks on the ISS, are grouped under the George Washington Carver (GWC) Science Park.
Nanoracks itself will lead the management and organization of the new space station. In fact, the company already has more than a decade of experience in space research and managing commercial experiments aboard the ISS, as evidenced by the installation of an onboard airlock called Bishop.
Voyager Space, which is also the majority shareholder of Nanoracks, will lead the commercial strategy and capital investments of the Starlab project.
Lockheed Martin, meanwhile, will fill the role of manufacturer and technical integrator, drawing on its experience in managing pressurized modules.