ORLANDO, Fla. — Starlab Space, the joint venture developing the Starlab commercial space station, has selected SpaceX’s Starship to launch the station on a single flight.

Starlab Space, a joint venture of Voyager Space and Airbus Space and Defence, announced Jan. 31 it reached an agreement with SpaceX to launch the Starlab station on Starship. The companies did not disclose terms of the agreement or a projected launch date, although a spokesperson for Starlab Space said the company was confident that Starlab would be launched before the decommissioning of the International Space Station, currently scheduled for 2030.

“SpaceX’s history of success and reliability led our team to select Starship to orbit Starlab,” Dylan Taylor, chairman and chief executive of Voyager Space, said in a statement. “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.”

Voyager and Airbus announced Jan. 9 that they had finalized the Starlab Space joint venture that the companies announced the previous August. Voyager had been working with Airbus since last January on the design of Starlab after ending an earlier partnership with Lockheed Martin.

The companies designed Starlab to be launched on a single flight. The station features a large habitation and laboratory module with a smaller service module attached to it for power and propulsion.

The size of Starlab made it unlikely that it could launch on anything other than Starship. In a presentation at the Space Tech Expo Europe conference in Bremen, Germany, last November, Manfred Jaumann, vice president of low Earth orbit and suborbital programs at Airbus, said the module has a diameter of more than eight meters. That is larger than what can be accommodated on vehicles in service or under development other than Starship.

Starlab, like Starship, will be made of stainless steel, which Jaumann said was possible because of the existence of large launch vehicles that can place up to 100 tons into low Earth orbit. The module will also be manufactured in a shipyard and completely integrated on the ground before launch, eliminating the need for on-orbit assembly. That cuts the manufacturing time in half to three years, he said, and launch costs by more than 80%.

Working with SpaceX, though, means dealing with a potential competitor. SpaceX was one of the companies that received an unfunded NASA Space Act Agreement in June through the agency’s Collaborations for Commercial Space Capabilities-2 initiative. SpaceX’s agreement, NASA said, involved studying the use of Starship as a commercial space station, but neither NASA nor SpaceX provided more details.

“Starlab’s single-launch solution continues to demonstrate not only what is possible, but how the future of commercial space is happening now,” Tom Ochinero, senior vice president of commercial business at SpaceX, said in a statement. “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.”

Jeff Foust writes about space policy, commercial space, and related topics for SpaceNews. He earned a Ph.D. in planetary sciences from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and a bachelor’s degree with honors in geophysics and planetary science...