The race to replace the ISS

In space, no one can hear you scream… about how great your business venture is going!

What happened: Airbus is teaming up with space-tech start-up Voyager in a bid to replace the International Space Station (ISS), which is set to be decommissioned by 2031.  

  • The ISS, a multinational research centre in Earth’s low orbit, launched in 1998. In that time, it’s endured a lot of wear and tear (space is rough) and is on its last legs.

Zoom out: The Voyager-Airbus duo is one of four consortiums NASA awarded a total of $550 million to design a potential ISS successor—Jeff Bezos’ Blue Origin is another. 

  • Airbus could give Voyager’s station a leg up, as Airbus is a European company and its participation could allay some concerns from the ISS’ European partners over access to a new station and using taxpayer dollars for a purely US corporate venture. 

Why it matters: The replacement wouldn’t just be a stuffy old research centre like the current ISS. It would be a multi-purpose commercial venue open for all sorts of business.

Plus: Think of the opportunities for space tourism! Several of the proposed stations include luxury hotel attributes to lure billionaires interested in the most extreme type of tourism.—QH