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NASA ups funding to commercial ISS successors

NASA has granted extra funding to two commercial space station projects following the withdrawal of a rival by Northrop Grumman.

The space agency will now give a combined US$99.5 million to Blue Origin and Voyager Space’s proposals as the US looks to independent firms to effectively replace the ISS, which is being retired in 2030.

Blue Origin, which is developing the Orbital Reef station, will receive an increase of US$42 million to its original US$130 million grant. In comparison, Voyager Space will receive US$57.5 million in extra funding on top of its US$160 million award.

It comes after Space Connect reported last year how Northrop Grumman would drop plans to develop its own commercial space station to instead collaborate on the Starlab project. The station, led by Voyager, is also supported by rival primes Lockheed Martin and Airbus.


NASA plans to transition its space activities to using commercial space stations such as Starlab or Axiom Space’s planned space station.

In October, Voyager said it would work with Northrop to develop technology that would allow the prime’s Cygnus spacecraft to autonomously dock with Starlab, providing cargo services.

“Autonomous docking – the ability for two spacecraft to dock independently from human controllers – is a critical technology enabling complex in-orbit and deep space operations,” said Voyager Space.

“Northrop Grumman’s Cygnus spacecraft will be utilised to deliver pressurised cargo to Starlab over an initial five-year period to support future human spaceflight missions.


“The Cygnus spacecraft has completed 19 missions, delivering over 138,000 pounds of cargo to the ISS.

“Cygnus has already demonstrated several advanced capabilities, including the ability to function as a laboratory while docked to ISS, deploy satellites, and re-boost the station’s orbit.”

The Starlab space station is expected to include a docking node and bus, and an inflatable module that will be able to house up to four astronauts at one time.

Northrop’s announcement came after rival Airbus joined the Starlab project 12 months ago, providing technical expertise in the design and support of the space station.

Adam Thorn

Adam Thorn

Adam is a journalist who has worked for more than 40 prestigious media brands in the UK and Australia. Since 2005, his varied career has included stints as a reporter, copy editor, feature writer and editor for publications as diverse as Fleet Street newspaper The Sunday Times, fashion bible Jones, media and marketing website Mumbrella as well as lifestyle magazines such as GQ, Woman’s Weekly, Men’s Health and Loaded. He joined Momentum Media in early 2020 and currently writes for Australian Aviation and World of Aviation.

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