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US, Italian Space Companies To Develop Module For ISS

June 19, 2009

Orbital Sciences Corporation and Italian Thales Alenia Space have announced an agreement that will see the two firms developing a pressurized cargo module for an unmanned resupply spacecraft for the ISS program.

The two firms made the announcement during the Paris air show.

They will be combining efforts to develop the cargo module that will enable Cygnus to carry almost three tons of food and equipment to the International Space Station.

“Cygnus has built into it all the critical safety features that are required for being in the vicinity of the space station,” said Bob Richards, project manager at Orbital Sciences, told BBC News.

“The standards are extremely stringent.”

Cygnus is expected to launch in March 2011 from Wallops Island, Virginia. It will be carried into low-Earth orbit by a Taurus II rocket before venturing on to meet with the ISS.

Once it nears the orbiting outpost, Cygnus will be connected with the space station’s robotic arm, which will carry the module to the Harmony Node to be connected.

Once connected with the space station, ISS crewmembers will be able to enter the module at will in order to get food and other supplies.

As it empties, the supply module will be filled with garbage from the crewmembers.

“We are going to develop nine modules,” Thales Alenia’s Roberto Provera told BBC News.

“The first is for the demonstration mission. Then we will supply eight others, two in what we call a ‘standard configuration’ and six in an ‘enhanced configuration’.

“Cargo carrying capability for the standard module is two tons; and for the enhanced version, we will have the capability to go up to 2.7 tons.”

Thales has developed more than half of the supplies for the pressurized module. Its Cygnus design is derived from a previous project it developed for NASA, called the Multi-Purpose Logistics Modules (MPLMs).

“We have good know-how in doing pressurized and manned modules,” Walter Cugno, of Thales, told the BBC.

“We know how NASA works; we are very well known by NASA and appreciated. So I guess we’re a natural partner for Orbital on the Cygnus venture.”

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