Meet LOOP: Airbus' new space station includes sci-fi-like centrifuge

And it could fly to orbit, in only one launch, by the early 2030s.
Chris Young
LOOP: Airbus' new space station
LOOP: Airbus' new space station


European aerospace giant Airbus has just revealed a new concept space habitat called LOOP.

The 26-foot-wide (8 meters) multi-purpose orbital module will feature three customizable decks, all of which will be connected by a tunnel overlooking a space greenhouse.

In a press statement, Airbus said its new space station design could accommodate up to eight crew members, and it could be deployed to orbit, in only one launch, by the early 2030s.

Airbus's ambitious new space station design

LOOP was designed to fit into the fairing of SpaceX's Starship launch system — which performed its first flight test yesterday — as well as that of other upcoming superheavy rockets. As such, the space station could be deployable, and operational, with only one launch.

One standout feature of Airbus's LOOP space station is a centrifuge deck that would allow it to produce artificial gravity, meaning crew members could enter the deck for a temporary reprieve from microgravity conditions. This could help to counter some of the well-documented adverse effects of microgravity on space station crew members' health.

Meet LOOP: Airbus' new space station includes sci-fi-like centrifuge
An artist's impression of the interior of LOOP.

LOOP also features a habitation deck, a science deck, and the orbital greenhouse. Airbus explained that its design allows crew members more interior space than other space stations.

"The Airbus LOOP is designed to make long-term stays in space comfortable and enjoyable for its inhabitants, while supporting efficient and sustainable operations at the same time," Airbus said in the statement.

"It builds on everything that has been learnt over the decades and fully exploits the potential of tomorrow’s technologies in order to best support humanity’s future in space: in low-Earth or lunar orbit, or on long-term missions to Mars." 

NASA turns to private companies for ISS succession

Airbus stated that LOOP could be ready to fly into orbit by the early 2030s, roughly around the same time the International Space Station (ISS) is due to end its operations.

NASA has been looking for successors to the ISS and it has provided funding for the development of Nanoracks' Starlab station and Blue Origin's Orbital Reef station.

Though LOOP won't be the first private space station to go to orbit — Nanoracks and others are aiming to lift their orbital stations later this decade — it could be the first station to produce simulated gravity using a sci-fi-like centrifuge module. It's pretty apt, then, that it might fly to orbit on that big Mars rocket that just took to the skies for the very first time.

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