The Airbus LOOP: Designey Space Stations Will Become a Reality

People love to hate Elon Musk, so everyone’s crowing that SpaceX’s recent Starship test ended in flames. But you cannot ignore the incredible overall success that SpaceX is; they’ve launched over 3,500 satellites at a fraction of what NASA’s cost would have been, changing the game and saving millions of dollars. And when they eventually get Starship and their Falcon Heavy booster to work, which they will, the thing will be able to carry an unheard-of 141,000 lbs (64 metric tons) into orbit.

That ability is going to change the design of space stations. The interior of the current ISS is neither pleasant nor spacious, and won’t win any design awards; current space stations are limited by what amounts of material can actually be launched into space and slapped together. But once Starship is regularly doing its thing, we’ll be able to launch much larger modules with plenty of room for actual design. Airbus is betting on this, and has already started designing such a module, called the Airbus LOOP.

“Designed for Long-Term Space Missions. 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. 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.”

“Launch in One Piece. The Airbus LOOP is designed to fit with the upcoming generation of super-heavy launchers that can launch an entire module in one piece. Thus, the Airbus LOOP is immediately operational once in orbit, ready to host humans and payloads.”

“Three Decks on Three Levels. The Airbus LOOP consists of three levels. In its original design, these are a Habitation Deck, a Science Deck and a Centrifuge that can create gravity conditions for the inhabitants, reducing the stress of weightlessness on the human body.”

“Unprecedented Space in Space. A diameter of eight meters (or roughly 26 feet) and roughly the same length enable an unprecedented volume, giving crews on board ample space. Its rigid outer shell offers maximum protection against any external influences.”

“A Greenhouse in Space. The decks are connected via the so-called ‘Tunnel’ at the center, which is surrounded by a greenhouse structure at the center of the modules. The separation into different decks allows for an internal ‘safe harbour’ concept.”

“Comfortable Crew. The Airbus LOOP is designed for a four-person crew, however, could temporarily accommodate up to eight astronauts at a time. It is compatible with all of today’s and tomorrow’s crew and cargo vehicles.”

Here’s an animation put together by Airbus and space travel R&D firm Liquifer Systems Group:

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