A new module for the space station blasted off today from the Baikonur Cosmodrome, Kazakhstan at 9:22 a.m. EST. The Poisk (which means “explore” in Russian) is a combination docking module/airlock/future research module. It will meet up with the ISS on Thursday at 10:44 am. Poisk is the first permanent pressurized module to be added since May of 2008, when the Japanese “JEM” research module became part of the ISS, and is the first major Russian addition to the station since the Pirs docking compartment was launched in 2001. The new module will be used as an additional docking port for Russian vehicles, as an airlock for Russian-based spacewalks and as a platform for external science experiments.
The new module is almost identical in size to Pirs, at 2.5 meters (8 feet wide) and about 4 meters (13 feet) long. Its first use will be as a docking port during the relocation of a Soyuz crew vehicle in January.
About 1,800 pounds of cargo is loaded into Poisk’s pressurized compartment for delivery to the space station.
A companion module, the Mini Research Module-1, will be carried to orbit on space shuttle Atlantis’ STS-132 mission, targeted to launch in May 2010. That module will be robotically attached to the station’s Zarya module.