Space Image

MDA Space & The Exploration Company Join Starlab Space Station

With MDA Space and The Exploration Company, Starlab Space is at the forefront of developing the next generation of space infrastructure!

  • More details coming soon...
Zac Aubert

Zac Aubert

Thu May 30 2024Written by Zac Aubert

In a significant development in the development of Starlab; Canadian company MDA Space has joined the Starlab Space joint venture, contributing its expertise in space robotics. This collaboration further broadens the international scope of the partnership aimed at developing the commercial space station.

The announcement, made on May 29, reveals that MDA Space is the latest strategic partner in Starlab Space, a joint venture formed last year by Voyager Space and Airbus Defence and Space. Mitsubishi Corp. joined the partnership in April.

MDA Space will acquire an equity stake in Starlab Space, though the exact size of this stake has not been disclosed. In exchange, MDA Space will provide advanced space robotics technologies from its newly launched MDA Skymaker line. This line, announced in April, includes robotic arms and interfaces designed to operate on the exterior of the Starlab space station.

The specific capabilities of the MDA Space system for Starlab will be disclosed at a later date, according to Mike Greenley, CEO of MDA Space. However, Greenley noted that the system would support station maintenance, manage external payloads, and handle visiting vehicles requiring berthing to the station.

“The MDA Skymaker line of commercial robotics is absolutely suited for that,” - Mike Greenley, CEO of MDA Space

“Our robotic arm is primarily for facilitating docking or for experiments...More revenue generating opportunities as opposed to construction or maintenance opportunities.” - Matthew Kuta, President of Voyager Space

Starlab is the first commercial space station customer for MDA Skymaker, which leverages the company’s extensive experience in developing robotic arms for the space shuttle and the International Space Station.

Additionally, a version of the MDA Skymaker technology will be used in Lunar Dawn, a lunar rover project led by Lunar Outpost. This project was one of three selected by NASA in April for its Lunar Terrain Vehicle Services program. The agreement with Starlab Space is non-exclusive, allowing MDA Space to collaborate with other commercial space station companies.

The partnership with Starlab Space aligns with MDA Space’s broader strategy, which focuses on Earth observation, communications, and living and working in space. The company builds and operates Earth observation satellites and is also constructing satellites for Telesat’s Lightspeed broadband constellation.

“We’ve now productized our offering to make it more accessible to the commercial market in all three business areas,” - Mike Greenley, CEO of MDA Space

MDA Space’s addition to the Starlab Space joint venture, brings representation from all the Western partners in the ISS: the United States, Europe, Japan, and Canada.

“We’ve been very focused from the beginning on this strategy to recreate the ISS except, instead of being owned by the government, it’s owned by the leading aerospace and defense corporations within those regions,” - Matthew Kuta, President of Voyager Space

This strategy enables Starlab to leverage their technical expertise, customer relationships, and government support.

“In a sense, we’re putting the band back together,” - Mike Greenley, CEO of MDA Space

The Exploration Company

The partnership with MDA Space follows an announcement of another collaboration between Starlab Space and The Exploration Company, a European space transportation firm. This agreement, unveiled a day earlier, covers three cargo missions to and from Starlab using the Nyx vehicle, which The Exploration Company is developing.

The agreement aims to diversify transportation options for Starlab, thereby controlling costs.

“If you only had one way to get to your hotel, the pricing probably increases,...The goal is to have as many different providers there as possible and we’re happy to work with anyone.” - Matthew Kuta, President of Voyager Space

The Exploration Company, a startup, was one of two companies selected by the European Space Agency on May 22 for initial study contracts for a commercial cargo service to support the ISS and other commercial stations.

“The Exploration Company still has a ways to go, but we’d definitely like to see us having a resupply capability from Europe,” - Matthew Kuta, President of Voyager Space

In addition to The Exploration Company, Starlab Space has an agreement with Northrop Grumman to use a version of its Cygnus cargo spacecraft and are in discussions with the Indian space agency ISRO about using its upcoming Gaganyaan crewed spacecraft. Additionally, Starlab will work with SpaceX, whose Starship vehicle will launch the space station.

This series of partnerships and strategic collaborations underscores the growing momentum in the commercial space industry, with Starlab Space at the forefront of developing the next generation of space infrastructure.