Two key modules for space station arrive in Florida

Posted: June 18, 2003

Despite the on-going grounding of space shuttle flights, work continues at Kennedy Space Center to ready massive pieces of the international space station for launches to finish assembling the orbiting complex.

NASA and its partners held a "welcoming ceremony" at the Florida spaceport Wednesday where two key modules have arrived for launch.

"Even in these trying times we still kept moving forward as a team and recognized the higher purpose," said Bill Gerstenmaier, NASA's station program manager. "When the shuttle gets ready to fly, we will be ready to fly. We will have the hardware checked out and verified."

Wednesday's welcoming ceremony at the Space Station Processing Facility. Photo: NASA
The European-built, NASA-owned "Node 2" connecting module and the Japanese "Kibo" research laboratory module were recently delivered to the Space Station Processing Facility for testing before they are carried aloft aboard space shuttle missions.

"These two new modules will soon join others on-orbit as part of our international space station. But first they will undergo some very critical tests right here in the processing facility," KSC Center Director Roy Bridges said at the ceremony.

"This work is very unforgiving. Once we get on-orbit we need these things to not fail and be very robust. So we need to put these things through their paces here on the ground."

"We were all very pleased to see the two modules together in the Space Station Processing Facility today," said Gerstenmaier. "Our teamwork and dedication to continuing the assembly of the station shines through when a key milestone such as this is realized."

Node 2 ownership given to NASA. Photo: NASA
Station officials signed over ownership of Node 2 from the European Space Agency to NASA at Wednesday's event. Node 2 was built for NASA under a barter agreement with ESA. In exchange for Node 2, NASA will launch the European Columbus laboratory aboard a future shuttle flight.

Technicians plan to conduct integrated testing between the two modules at the launch site. The ground tests will validate the compatibility of the modules in distributing power and system resources between the research facilities.

"Delivery of these components, built in Europe and Japan, to KSC for integrated testing prior to flight is yet another indication of the significant global cooperation and proactive planning required for successful operation of the international space station program," Gerstenmaier said. "Their arrival in the United States signifies the space station international partnership is continuing to move forward with the steps necessary to construct our unique research platform in space."

The Node 2 connecting module at KSC. Photo: NASA
Node 2 will be the next pressurized module added to the station. It is slated to be carried aboard mission STS-120, which is seven shuttle flights away. The flight -- commanded by veteran astronaut Jim Halsell -- will mark U.S. Core Complete. The milestone means the American portion of the station will be fully assembled in orbit.

NASA says Node 2 will increase the living and working space inside the station to approximately 18,000 cubic feet. The connecting node allows the international partners' research facilities to be attached to the station.

Kibo, or "Hope", is part of the Japanese Experiment Module package. The JEM also includes a platform outside the station for space environment experiments, a robotic manipulator system and two logistics modules. The various JEM components will be assembled in space over the course of three shuttle missions.

The Kibo pressurized module. Photo: NASA
Node 2 arrived at KSC on June 1 inside an Airbus Beluga aircraft. It was flown from Turin, Italy, where it was built by Alenia Spazio.

A cargo vessel carrying Kibo departed May 2 from Yokohama Harbor in Japan for the voyage to the United States. The National Space Development Agency of Japan developed the laboratory at the Tsukuba Space Center near Tokyo. It arrived at the Cape on June 4.

"We could have stopped processing and not brought the hardware," Gerstenmaier said of the shuttle grounding following the Columbia tragedy. "But the team knew the right thing to do was keep moving forward, to bring these two modules together."

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