The two companies and ESA will initially study how the planned Starlab space station can be used to provide continued access to space for Europe after the retirement of the ISS.
The European Space Agency (ESA), Airbus Defence and Space, and Voyager Space have formalised their commitment to collaboration with the signing of a trilateral Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) at the ESA Space Summit in Seville. This partnership outlines their collective efforts in shaping the future of the Starlab space station during the post-International Space Station (ISS) era.
The MoU sets the stage for joint initiatives in science and technology development, emphasising exploration opportunities for collaboration in the realm of low-Earth orbit (LEO) destinations post-ISS.
The initial focus of this collaboration is centred on exploring sustained access to space for Europe through the Starlab space station. Key aspects of the agreement include facilitating access to Starlab for ESA and its Member States for astronaut missions, long-term research activities, and commercial business development. The collaboration also envisions contributions to research projects on upcoming missions, leveraging European technology in areas such as advanced robotics, automation/artificial intelligence, and advancing European science priorities like health and life sciences. Additionally, there are plans to establish a comprehensive ‘end-to-end’ ecosystem, featuring Starlab as a LEO destination and a potential ESA-developed European transportation system (cargo and crew) with standardised interfaces for an open access policy.
This agreement aligns with ESA’s strategic vision to transition seamlessly from the ISS era toward sustained utilisation of human and robotic infrastructures in low-Earth orbit post-2030, with a focus on commercial services.
Speaking about the agreement, Josef Aschbacher, Director General of the European Space Agency, said: ESA appreciates the transatlantic industry initiative for the commercial Starlab space station, and the potential that its strong European footprint holds for significant European industrial and institutional contributions to, and use of, said station. Our teams are looking forward to working closely with the Starlab teams here in Europe and in the US.
Matt Kuta, President of Voyager Space, added: This agreement with the European Space Agency is critical as we continue to foster international collaboration in the space domain and move towards succeeding the International Space Station with Starlab. We look forward to working with Airbus and ESA to extend Europes footprint in space and ensure they remain a leader in the new generation of commercial space exploration.
Mike Schoelhorn, CEO of Airbus Defence and Space, stated: At Airbus, we are very pleased that ESA is continuing to look to the future and demonstrating such a keen interest in Starlab. Our collaboration on this next-generation space station builds on a long and successful partnership between ESA and Airbus in developing and operating a wide range of crewed and uncrewed spacecraft.
This collaboration builds on the transatlantic joint venture announced in August 2023 by Voyager and Airbus, aimed at supporting a continuous human presence in low-Earth orbit and facilitating a seamless transition of microgravity science and research opportunities in the post-ISS era. Starlab is also anticipated to feature a European-affiliated joint venture to directly cater to the European Space Agency and its member state space agencies.