NanoRacks Wants to Add New Private Airlock to ISS


Later this year as part of the CRS-8 resupply flight, SpaceX will deliver the Bigelow Expandable Activity Module, or BEAM, to the International Space Station. BEAM, funded as part of a $17.8 million contract, will ride to orbit in the trunk of the Dragon spacecraft, and then be berthed to the Station’s Tranquility module where it will spend two years undergoing tests of its expandable architecture.

In what could be taken as yet another sign of the Station’s gradual transformation in the era of commercial spaceflight, it may not be the only addition to Tranquility, also known as Node 3, arriving in the same fashion. According to an article in ARS Technica, NanoRacks is giving strong consideration to self-funding a new airlock which would also be added to ISS and used up to 12 times a year to deploy small spacecraft, receive broken external parts for on-board repair, and even take out the trash.

“NanoRacks is proposing to build a large, half-cylinder-shaped airlock about two meters in diameter and 1.8 meters long. The airlock would attach to the end of the station’s Node 3 module, near the cupola. It would connect via a common berthing mechanism, or CBM, and then be pressurized. After pressurization, the hatch could be opened and the airlock configured for various tasks.”

NASA, which has of late become very eager to find new ways of marketing the Station’s potential to both the broader scientific community as well as to private industry, is reportedly “intrigued” by the prospect, which NanoRacks would fund for around $12-15 million. If approved and developed, the new airlock could launch as soon as 2018. The full story is here.


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