Skip to Main Content

Glenn College Professor Leads University Research for New Commercial Space Station

News Type College News

The Ohio State University is the lead university partner of a multimillion-dollar, NASA-funded effort to develop a new generation of commercially based, human-occupied space stations in low-Earth orbit. 

Ohio State research and innovation will support the Starlab commercial space station. John M. Horack, professor and Neil Armstrong Chair in Aerospace Policy at the John Glenn College of Public Affairs and the College of Engineering, will lead the Ohio State work. 

Starlab is led by Nanoracks, a commercial space company dedicated to providing commercial access to space, and includes partner organizations Voyager Space (majority shareholder in Nanoracks), Lockheed Martin, Ohio-based Zin Technologies, the Universities Space Research Association and the International Association of Science Parks and Areas of Innovation. 

Nanoracks has been awarded a $160 million Space Act Agreement by NASA, as part of the agency’s Commercial Low-Earth Orbit Development program, to design and deploy the Starlab commercial space station. Starlab will host the space-based George Washington Carver (GWC) Science Park. Ohio State’s efforts will support the science park, which will be the core science element of Starlab once it achieves initial operational capability in space in 2027. Starlab supports NASA’s initiative to stimulate the commercial space economy and provide science and crew capabilities prior to the retirement of the International Space Station. 

“This collaboration will help the state of Ohio build further upon our long history of advancing the future of spaceflight, and the benefits it brings to all people on Earth, continuing in the tradition of John Glenn and Neil Armstrong,” said Horack, who also is a core faculty member of the Sustainability Institute at Ohio State. “One can perhaps think of Starlab and the GWC Science Park as integrating many of the strengths of Ohio State’s research infrastructure and campus to the location of low-Earth orbit.” 

As the lead university partner in the collaboration, Ohio State will: 

  • Support development and coordination of all university research aboard Starlab/ GWC Science Park. 

  • Lead the development and implementation of Terrestrial Analog Facilities, and ground-based research for agricultural and other disciplines aboard Starlab/GWC Science Park. 

  • Serve as a research gateway and catalyst for other potential users, including sovereign space programs and global private-sector industry. 

“Starlab is an opportunity for transformational leadership and partnership with the commercial space sector in cutting-edge research, across a wide range of domains,” said Ohio State President Kristina M. Johnson. “It builds on Ohio State’s strengths in industry research and leverages our existing research capabilities to support NASA’s priorities for the development and commercialization of low-Earth orbit. It is incredibly exciting for Ohio State to have this opportunity to engage in transformational leadership and partnership with the commercial space sector while building on and leveraging our strengths in industry research.” 

Starlab and the GWC Science Park will focus on a range of research areas, including biology, plant and agricultural science, physical science and materials research. Researchers will have an opportunity to advance in-space and terrestrial agriculture, materials and manufacturing for spaceflight, artificial intelligence and space-based remote sensing. 

Learn more about the science park’s interdisciplinary research, which is expected to involve the College of Engineering; College of Food, Agricultural and Environmental Sciences; and College of Arts and Sciences, along with key research centers, faculty, staff and students.