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Russian space module set for American launch aboard the shuttle Atlantis

Posted: March 25, 2010

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Inside a building at Port Canaveral where commercial American space habitation modules once readied for flight, a hundred Russian specialists have taken up residence to prepare their hardware for launch to the International Space Station.

The Mini Research Module 1, dubbed Rassvet or "dawn," will be ferried to the orbiting outpost aboard the space shuttle Atlantis during a construction mission planned for liftoff May 14 from Kennedy Space Center.

NASA is hauling up the 18,000-pound module in Atlantis' payload bay as part of international bartering agreement. The shuttle crew will oversee Rassvet's installation onto the station's Zarya control module to serve as a new docking port for visiting Russian vehicles.

Taking advantage of the Rassvet's interior volume, NASA has packed 3,000 pounds of equipment, spare parts, food and provisions in the module for trucking to the station. And an airlock and radiator are piggybacking on the side of Rassvet for eventual relocation to the Multi-Purpose Laboratory Module when it is launched to the station by Russia in 2012.

The Russian aerospace firm RSC Energia built Rassvet and shipped the module to Florida last December for final assembly and checkout procedures. The company's team of workers deployed to the U.S. have used the old Spacehab facility south of Kennedy Space Center to do the pre-flight activities.

Spacehab modules flew on numerous shuttle missions to house a variety of experiments and also truck cargo to orbit. The commercial modules were connected to the shuttle crew cabin by tunnels, affording a shirt-sleeve environment for the astronauts to work in during stand-alone science missions, plus trips to the Russian space station Mir and the International Space Station. NASA last used a Spacehab module in 2007 and has no future plans to fly them on the remaining shuttle flights.

Rassvet will be moved to NASA's Space Station Processing Facility on April 2 where final touches occur before the module is placed into the shuttle payload transporter on April 5.

Sharing the ride in Atlantis' cargo bay is a reusable pallet structure loaded with fresh batteries for the station's oldest power truss, a new Ku-band communications antenna and an additional handling device for the Dextre robot. The 8,150-pound pallet has been processed at the Spacehab building too and heads over to KSC to join Rassvet in the payload canister on April 7.

That canister, which is shaped like the shuttle's bay, will be rotated to stand up vertically and then delivered to launch pad 39A on April 15. Atlantis rolls out to the pad on April 20 to receive its payloads and get ready to fly a few weeks later.

Here is a collection of photos of Rassvet and the cargo pallet taken at Spacehab during a press viewing opportunity held on Thursday, March 25.

Photo credit: Ben Cooper/Spaceflight Now

Photo credit: Ben Cooper/Spaceflight Now