The Airbus Loop space station would be completely assembled on the ground and launched atop a super-heavy-class booster.

Dan Carney, Senior Editor

April 27, 2023

10 Slides

Seeking to leverage its experience constructing the International Space Station’s Columbus Module and the Automated Transfer Vehicle (ATV) and the Orion European Service Module (ESM) space ferries, Airbus is proposing a space station that can be launched as an already-assembled complete unit.

Airbus calls this Loop, a multi-purpose orbital module that flies into orbit as a ready-to-use space platform. NASA’s Skylab space station was a similar concept, and the reason for both of them is the availability of a booster strong enough to lift a module large enough to be a small space station.

For Skylab, that booster was the Saturn V moon rocket. The Airbus Loop station could fly aboard the SpaceX Super Heavy booster that recently flew its first orbital launch attempt carrying a SpaceX Starship. Loop doesn’t care what body it orbits, so customers can also consider sending it to Lunar orbit or even Mars as an outpost for operations there.

Airbus intends for the Loop to be a blank canvas, onto which customers can paint their own mission requirements. Loop’s modular design means that customers can adapt the deck selection to their individual mission requirements and objectives. That means the ability to choose to replace any or all of the three decks with individually designed options needed for their respective mission objectives.

Customers can even choose a ‘dry’ module or deck of  mechanical structure with no outfitting. Then they can equip it with their own infrastructure elements.

Additionally, customers can assemble larger stations just by launching multiple Loops and docking them together in orbit.

To help clients customize Loop to their own needs, Airbus is offering:

  • Consulting services for the design and engineering of In-Space and Space Transportation Infrastructure as well as Operations

  • Thermal Control Solutions

  • Power Generation and Management Systems

  • Environmental Control and Life Support Systems

  • Outfitting Elements (e.g. Glovebox, Rack, Cooler/Freezer) 

  • Payload Design, Integration, and Hosting Services

While Loop’s ready-to-use, single-launch concept is similar to that of Skylab, Loop has a larger diameter (26 feet, compared to Skylab’s 21.67 feet), providing additional internal space. There’s even enough room for a long-promised centrifuge to provide occupants with artificial gravity while they are inside. Now we just have to see what organizations step forward to buy Loop modules and what they will do with them. Click through the photo gallery for details.

About the Author(s)

Dan Carney

Senior Editor, Design News

Dan’s coverage of the auto industry over three decades has taken him to the racetracks, automotive engineering centers, vehicle simulators, wind tunnels, and crash-test labs of the world.

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