Britain Proposes New International Space Station Modules

British scientists hope to improve living conditions on the International Space Station (ISS) by designing a new addition: the Habitation Extension Module (HEM). Although the plan is currently unofficial, it is hoped the proposal will get accepted and built for a 2011 launch. This would be a massive victory for UK space aspirations, as the nation currently does not have its own space agency and depends on project collaboration with the European Space Agency (ESA) to develop new space technology. The new HEM design features the UK national flag, the Union Jack, perhaps a symbol for the beginning of a British foothold in space.

The proposed habitat design would actually consist of two modules attached to the Node 3 segment of the station. Intended to provide extra accommodation for six crew members (the station currently holds a complement of three astronauts), this design should be welcomed as the ISS is scheduled to accommodate six people in 2009, signifying that the station will move into a “fully operational” phase of its construction.

As the Space Shuttle would have retired by the time HEM is sent to the station, launch will depend on the Russian Soyuz-Fregat rocket, and final approach to the station would use a built-in propulsion system. In addition to the module, three tons of supplies will be on board, stocking the ISS with food and equipment.

The proposed design will be 12.5 feet in diameter and 18.7 in length, adding a total of 3,531.5 cubic feet of living space. This 24% increase in space from the current living volume of 15,000 cubic feet would surely be a welcomed relief to the ISS occupants, making our only space station a more comfortable place to live and work.

The project would come with a pretty heavy price tag. Convincing the UK government to invest approximately £1 billion ($2 billion) in the construction and running of the module till 2015 might, however, stall the British desire for a strong presence in space.


6 Replies to “Britain Proposes New International Space Station Modules”

  1. It is a good idea and the ISS needs a design or at least a plan to be able to support more astronauts. The two billion it would cost would I think be a not too bad price to pay to have the UK finally up in space.

    It would also be helpful if we could some more crew transport vehicles in the works so that we don’t have to rely completely on the Russians rockets.

    The Fool

  2. I saw on a related story that the Russians are considering building a new space platform because the ISS is supposedly going to be “decommissioned” by 2025, perhaps sooner.

    Why in the Universe would we spend all this money, time and effort into something that may only last another 17 years? Surely the ISS could last much longer than that.

  3. The UK Government will not do this, I guarantee it. They have no interest in promoting manned spaceflight and even less in unmanned exploration.

    The ‘Beagle’ project was done by without any government support worth mentioning. But if it had succeded the government would have been there taking all the credit.

    I suggest that any country who thinks the UK has got this extension to the ISS sorted needs to be planning to do it themselves.

  4. The US does have a replacement vehicle in the works so we will not have to rely (very much) on the Russian Soyuz series of rockets and orbiters.

    The project is dubbed Orion, and is a throwback to the Mercury/Gemini/Apollo days with a capsule design rather than a glider. The Orion will replace the Shuttle and, hopefully, will be the primary platform that will carry humans back to the moon and eventually to Mars.

    Last I heard the NASA brains were fighting about whether or not the capsule would contain an airbag system to facilitate landings on solid ground, or if they would strip off that hardware in an effort to save weight and instead splash the capsule down in the ocean in more or less the same way we did in the 60’s and 70’s.

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