LOS ANGELES — Northrop Grumman will drop plans to develop its own commercial space station and instead assist a competing effort led by Voyager Space, the companies announced Oct. 4.
Under the new partnership, the companies will cooperate on the development of fully autonomous docking systems for Northrop’s Cygnus cargo spacecraft, allowing it to dock with Voyager’s Starlab space station. The companies also said they will “further explore opportunities to strengthen the development of Starlab” that could include Northrop providing engineering design services for that station. Ars Technica first reported about a potential partnership between the companies.
“This collaboration is a major step forward for the Starlab program,” said Dylan Taylor, chairman and chief executive of Voyager Space, in a statement. “Northrop Grumman’s technical capability and proven success in cargo resupply services will play a pivotal role as we accelerate Starlab’s development.”
The two companies had been independently working on space station concepts. Both were support by funded NASA Space Act Agreements as part of its Commercial Low Earth Orbit Destinations (CLD) program awarded in late 2021. Those agreements are intended to mature the designs of their stations as part of NASA efforts to assist the development of commercial successors to the International Space Station, set to retire in 2030. Voyager Space recently added Airbus Defence and Space to its team, creating a joint venture to enable development of Starlab.
The Voyager-Northrop statement did not discuss the future of Northrop’s proposed station. However, NASA said in a separate statement that Northrop will withdraw from its agreement. The company has received $36.6 million out of a total $125.6 million for achieving certain milestones in that agreement.
The agency spun the partnership as a positive development. “Northrop Grumman has determined that its best strategy is to join…