SpaxeX’s Starship may have met an unfortunate fate during launch, but it has not dampened the spirit of Elon Musk and humanity’s quest to explore space. However, if we wish to go further out into the universe, we must upgrade our life-support systems and accommodations, and that is where Airbus comes in. The European aerospace manufacturer has designed LOOP, a “multi-purpose orbital module” that aims to replace the aging International Space Station.
Compared to the cramped spaces of the ISS, the three-level deck of LOOP offers a sleek and comfortable living environment for its inhabitants. It can house a crew of four but can be adjusted to accommodate eight astronauts at the same time. LOOP consists of three decks, namely the Habitation, the Science Deck, and a Centrifuge that creates gravity conditions for the station’s inhabitants. The modular design allows for customization and easy replacement of any of the decks according to the mission’s objectives, and several LOOP modules can be connected to create a larger station. The station can be launched in one piece, fully operational and ready to go, with the help of upcoming superheavy launchers such as the Starship.
Under the LOOP concept umbrella, Airbus also offers a range of space exploration supporting technologies, such as thermal control solutions, power generation and management, environmental control, and life support systems. Airbus has a rich heritage in contributing to international space missions and was the first non-US company to build a mission-critical element for an American Human Spaceflight Mission.
However, for LOOP to become a reality, Airbus needs customers who are willing to purchase the product. The cost of the International Space Station, including development, assembly, and running costs over a decade, was around €100 billion. Therefore, it remains to be seen whether there will be anyone willing to part with sums of near-astronomical proportions.
With all the hype around space tourism, it is not inconceivable to envision a boutique space station hotel. LOOP’s modular design and customization options can cater to individual mission profiles and objectives, offering a unique and personalized space experience. The greenhouse structure surrounding the center tunnel adds an element of nature to the otherwise artificial environment of space, providing a space for growing plants, and potentially, fresh food for the inhabitants.
While the cost of such ventures remains a concern, the potential benefits and discoveries of space exploration are priceless.