First European Node for the International Space Station ready

Node 2 will be formally delivered to the European Space Agency by ASI, the Italian Space Agency in mid-May 2003. Last week the first activity related to that delivery, the Acceptance Review, was successfully conducted at the Alenia Spazio facility in Turin, with the participation of ESA, ASI and NASA.

The nodes are elements interconnecting laboratory and habitation modules of the International Space Station. When completed, the Station will have three nodes. Node 1, called Unity, has already been developed and manufactured by US industry under a NASA contract and was launched in December 1998. It connects the Russian Zarya module with the American Laboratory Destiny. Nodes 2 and 3 are being made in Europe for NASA under a barter agreement using European know-how and technology.

Node 2 will connect the US Laboratory Destiny, the European Columbus Laboratory, the Centrifuge Accommodation Module, and the Japanese Experiment Module Kibo. It also will be the attachment point for the Multi-Purpose Logistics Module (MPLM), the Japanese H II Transfer Vehicle and it will carry a docking adapter for the US Space Shuttle. It will control and distribute resources throughout these Station elements and provide support to the crew and experiments, and will also provide a working base point for the Space Station Remote Manipulator System.

Nodes 2 and 3 are being supplied under a barter agreement between ESA and NASA, signed on 8 October 1997 in Turin. According to this agreement ESA will provide two nodes, additional high-technology laboratory equipment and services to NASA. In return the US Space Shuttle will ferry the European Columbus Laboratory module to the Space Station on a launch currently planned for October 2004.

Under these arrangements ESA entrusted ASI with responsibility for management, development and manufacture of the two nodes, which are being built under the prime contractorship of Alenia Spazio in Turin, leading a consortium of European industrial companies.

This enabled Europe to take full advantage of the experience gained by Italian industry through the development of the Multi-Purpose Logistics Module (MPLM) and synergies between the MPLM, nodes 2 and 3, and the European Columbus Laboratory module, which all use the same structural concept, developed by Alenia Spazio for all these contracts.

“We are very pleased to have honoured our engagement on the construction of the first of the two International Space Station nodes” said Jörg Feustel-Büechl, ESA Director of Human Spaceflight. “Barter agreements play an important role in the Space Station programme, serving to facilitate international cooperation between Space Station partners. Furthermore the construction of Station elements contributes to economic development and provides employment for people here in Europe”.

The construction of Node 2 is presently under finalisation in Turin. Following the Acceptance Review, a Transportation Readiness Review will be held in May, as a result of the successful completion of that review, the Node 2 will be flown to the Kennedy Space Centre, Florida, USA, in an Airbus Beluga heavy lift vehicle. Following post transportation inspection, the Italian Space Agency will formally hand over Node 2 to ESA who in turn will hand it over to NASA, which according to the terms of the barter agreement, will then become the final owner of this ISS element.