Apparently the International Space Station is going to get bigger. According to an article on Flight Global, NASA and the Italian Space Agency (ASI) are preparing to sign an agreement to add another laboratory to the ISS by using a modified multipurpose logistics module (Raffaello) during the final Space Shuttle mission. It will be attached in September 2010 during Endeavour’s STS-133 mission. The idea had originally been rejected, but earlier this year ISS program manager Michael Suffredini said using an MPLM for an additional module was being reconsidered.
The Italian-designed and built – but NASA owned – logistics module will be able to bring up extra spare parts and science and equipment racks. The module has 16 equipment racks for its 9,400kg (20,600lb) of cargo that could be used for experiments.
The Italian Space Agency (ASI) will pay €22 million ($31.3 million) to upgrade the module, such as micrometeroid protection. In return the agency is guaranteed a seat on NASA’s next crew transport system and six ISS mission opportunities for its Italian astronauts. These are three short-duration missions and three six-month expeditions.
Flight Global reported that “ASI says it can ‘confirm that we are going to sign an agreement. One module will became a permanent element of the ISS. It will be an ASI activity with national funds co-ordinated with ESA as the main European partner of the ISS programme.'”
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The crew for the final mission may have to be cut from seven to five in order to accommodate the added weight of the module.
Source: Flight Global