November 10, 2009

Russia Begins New Construction On ISS

Russia's space agency on Tuesday launched a new module with plans to revive its efforts to add to the International Space Station.

The Poisk ("Quest") Mini-Research Module-2 represents the country's first mission to resume construction on the ISS after almost a decade of economic problems that kept the space agency from any development on the orbiting outpost.

The MIM-2 module launched from Baikonur Cosmodrome at 1422 GMT.

The MIM-2 module is the first of three components Russia intends to add to its portion of the ISS over the next three years.

The Mini-Research Module-1 (MIM-1) is being tested and prepped for its flight at RKK Energia near Moscow, according to BBC News.

MIM-1 will be launched along with a NASA space shuttle from Cape Canaveral, Florida.

The MIM-1 components were taken from the habitation section of a canceled power supply platform that never launched due to a lack of resources.

It represents Russia's first new construction to the ISS since 2001, when it launched the Pirs docking station.

In 2012 Russia intends to launch a long-delayed multi-purpose module using a heavy-lift Proton rocket.

The MLM would be carrying a remote manipulator arm, called ERA, BBC reported. However, the MLM's addition to the ISS would require the Pirs docking port to be removed from its position and destroyed.

The MIM-2 is expected to take the place of Pirs as an entry point for Russian spacewalks and future exterior ISS work.

In June, Simonetta Di Pippo, the European Space Agency's (Esa) director of human space flight spoke about her view of the future for Russian spaceflight.

"I have continuous consultations with officials in Russia. We meet every month to month-and-a-half, and now we are going to start joint work on the study for how to proceed beyond 2025," Di Pippo said.

"We have a common idea that we would like to preserve a presence in [low-Earth orbit]. We are studying different scenarios, whether we need permanent presence or, maybe, a human-tended capability, and we can end up with a totally different solution in the end. But I don't believe we can leave Earth orbit."


Image 2: The Soyuz rocket carrying Poisk, Russia's newest module, launches on time from Kazakhstan. Credit: NASA TV 


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