November 21, 2009

Handover Ceremony Paves Way For Launch Of Final European ISS Modules

Twelve years of design, development and hard work have come to fruition with the formal handover of Node 3 from ESA to NASA on November 20, 2009. The ceremony took place in the Space Station Processing Facility at NASA's Kennedy Space Center, Florida, USA.

The ceremony was attended by Bernardo Patti International Space Station Program Manager in ESA's Directorate of Human Spaceflight, NASA's International Space Station Program Manager Michael Suffredini, Robert Cabana, NASA's Director of the Kennedy Space Center, William Dowdell, NASA's Deputy for Operations for ISS and Spacecraft Processing, Secondino Brondolo, Head of the Space Infrastructure at Thales Alenia Space Italy and selected media organizations. 

Launch in February 2010

Node 3, one of the three ISS interconnecting modules, will now undergo final activities for a February 2010 launch on Space Shuttle Endeavour together with the European-built Cupola Observation Module, which is already attached to Node 3.

"Node 3 and Cupola are Europe's final major hardware contributions to the ISS," said Mr Patti. "Once attached to the ISS in February next year, more than one-third of the pressurized ISS elements will have been built in Europe. The ISS is now almost complete and since we were able to add our European Columbus laboratory last year, our scientific and technological utilization program is at full swing and we are looking forward to its results."

Cupola to provide stunning view of Earth during robotic control work

Following the associated remarks and speeches, Mr Patti and Mr Suffredini concluded the handover with the official signing of the Transfer of Ownership agreement for Node 3.

The handover of Node 3 completes the final major element of the barter agreement between ESA and NASA signed in Turin on October 8, 1997 under which ESA provided Nodes 2 and 3 plus additional equipment and know-how in return for transportation of the European Columbus Laboratory to the ISS by Space Shuttle. Both Node 2 and the Columbus laboratory have been performing successfully in orbit as key elements of the ISS since October 2007 and February 2008 respectively.

"Node 3, which follows in the footsteps of Node 2 and Columbus is generally recognized as the most complex pressurized element of the station by the ISS community," says Philippe Deloo, ESA's Project Manager for the Nodes and Cupola.

"Under ESA's management, Italian company Thales Alenia Space did an outstanding job with Node 3 in showcasing the capabilities in Europe to develop and build space technology. From its early design, this master piece of engineering has now evolved into an extremely complex Space Station module which will accommodate vital environmental support and life support systems for the Station's crew."

Tranquility to provide crucial life support and crew conditioning resources

Node 3, which was named Tranquility by NASA, will house a variety of systems and equipment covering oxygen generation, air purification and water recovery, as well as avionics equipment to control Node 3; a treadmill and a resistive exercise device to act as conditioning and exercise equipment for the ISS crew; and a Waste and Hygiene Compartment. In addition one of Node 3's docking ports will be used as the connecting point for the Cupola observation module.

The Cupola has already been at the Kennedy Space Center since 2004, with its ownership transferred to NASA in 2005. Following Node 3's arrival at the Kennedy Space Center in May 2009, the two European-built ISS elements were mated together in their launch configuration on September 1, 2009.

Once on orbit, Node 3 will be connected to the left-hand docking port of the Unity Node 1. Hereafter the Cupola observation module will be moved to the Earth-facing port of Node 3 to provide a robotic control tower for the ISS with a stunning view of Earth for the Station's crew.

"Node 3 and the Cupola are the final elements of a very challenging assembly phase, which has been a great learning experience for all partners," said Simonetta Di Pippo, ESA Director of Human Spaceflight.

"The fact that these modules with such important features were built in Europe says a lot about our industrial know-how and our ability to contribute to this great international project. By having developed several ISS modules and by completing its assembly in the months to come, we will open a new era of cooperation, utilization and exploration that will take humankind back to the Moon and beyond to other destinations while continuing to exploit the enormous possibilities in low Earth orbit."


Image 1: ESA's Cupola was mated to Node 3 in September 2009, and is now ready for launch. The Cupola observation module, which was shipped to the Kennedy Space Center in 2004, and whose ownership was transferred to NASA in 2005, will provide an unprecedented capability for external ISS operations as a command tower for robotic operations as well as a stunning view of Earth for the ISS Expedition crews on board the orbiting ISS. Credits: ESA

Image 2: Ownership of ESA's Node 3, Tranquility, the final European-built habitable module for the International Space Station (ISS), was transferred from the European Space Agency to NASA on 20 November 2009. Node 3 will now begin final activities prior to its launch to the ISS on the STS-130 mission in February 2010. Credits: ESA

Image 3: Node 3 consists of a pressurized cylindrical hull 4.5 m in diameter with a shallow conical section enclosing each end. It is almost 7 m long and will weigh together with the Cupola over 13.5 tons at launch. The pressurized shell of Node 3 is constructed from aluminum alloys. This is covered with a multi-layer insulation blanket for thermal stability and around 75 sections of paneling to act as a protective shield against bombardment from space debris. This paneling is also constructed of an aluminum alloy together with a layer of Kevlar and Nextel. Internal and external secondary structures are used to support the installation of equipment, piping and electrical harnesses. Two water loops (respectively low-temperature and moderate-temperature loops) allow the rejection of the heat generated inside the element to the ISS ammonia lines by means of two heat exchangers mounted on the external side of one end cone. Credits: ESA


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