Vast to Launch Space Station on Starship Rocket

An aerospace startup named Vast has expressed interest in launching a space station on SpaceX’s Starship / Super Heavy stack. The space station, Haven-1, will become one of the first privately owned space stations if everything goes as planned.

Haven-1 could launch as early as August 2025 if everything goes smoothly. It will be capable of hosting a four-person crew who can travel to the space station on SpaceX’s Crew Dragon. Vast plans to have Haven-1 host the first crew for up to 30 days. Future crew members may be professional astronauts representing government-funded space agencies or private individuals who paid for a seat. Work could include scientific experiments and work on proposed in-space manufacturing techniques.

Haven-1 will eventually become part of a larger orbital base that Vast is currently designing. Initial designs indicate that the final base could be capable of spinning to generate “artificial gravity” with centrifugal force. The company’s CEO, Jed McCaleb, envisions building a series of large space stations capable of generating artificial gravity.

Vast’s larger space station will be 328 feet long, slightly longer than the International Space Station with a total truss length of 310 feet. The International Space Station is about the size of a football field.

Other Companies Working on Space Stations (but it’s hard)

Other companies working on a private space station include Axiom Space, which is currently preparing to add inflatable modules to the International Space Station with a series of flights to the space station. The second flight, AX-2, will be commanded by experienced astronaut Peggy Whitson and is currently scheduled to launch on May 21 at 5:37 EDT. The inflatable modules will eventually be “spun off” into their own space station before the International Space Station is retired.

Bigelow Aerospace had once done work on a privately owned space station and even sent an inflatable module to the ISS. However, it faced challenges that included being forced to suspend operations and lay off all its workers in 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic. It also turned down a chance to bid on future work for NASA, citing concerns about compensation. A blog entry indicates that it disputed claims made by former NASA administrator Charles Bolden during a speech in which Bolden accused Bigelow of not doing enough to make its planned space station a reality. In 2022, it signed ownership of the inflatable module it provided over to NASA.

Starship Needs to Become Operational

Future Starship launch dates will depend on the spaceship and Super Heavy rocket becoming fully operational. The planned (and much-delayed) orbital test suffered a failure two minutes after leaving the launchpad and destroying the launchpad. However, Elon Musk remained confident in the possibility of a quick turnaround — pending, of course, FAA approval, which may depend on SpaceX being able to convince regulators and environmental activists that it won’t start a fire in a nearby state park next time.

This issue may impact the launch schedule for payloads like Vast’s Haven-1, SpaceX’s next-generation Starlink satellites, and humanitarian supplies that Starship could quickly deliver to anywhere on Earth. It’s not like a Starship prototype hasn’t suffered a rapid unscheduled disassembly before, though. SpaceX may still get it right, even if it’s on the fifth try.

Starship will enable launch of larger payloads like Haven-1, which stands a chance of becoming one of the first privately owned space stations if not necessarily the first. Along with Axiom Space, Haven-1 could expand on the concept behind NASA’s Commercial Crew Program by making it possible for space agencies to rent space and send astronauts to a privately owned space station. It could also host private passengers who may be wealthy individuals or represent organizations interested in conducting experiments.