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The competition heats up: NASA has signed an agreement with NanoRacks and Boeing to build private commercial airlock to attach to ISS in 2019 and be used for commercial operations.
Commercial opportunities through Airlock begin with cubesat and small satellite deployment from station and include a full range of additional services to meet customer needs from NASA and the growing commercial sector. Currently, cubesats and small satellites are deployed through the government-operated Japanese Kibo Airlock. Additionally, the crew on board may now assemble payloads typically flown in soft-stowage ISS Cargo Transfer Bags into larger items that currently cannot be handled by the existing Kibo Airlock. “We are very pleased to have Boeing joining with us to develop the Airlock Module,” says NanoRacks CEO Jeffrey Manber. “This is a huge step for NASA and the U.S. space program, to leverage the commercial marketplace for low-Earth orbit, on Space Station and beyond, and NanoRacks is proud to be taking the lead in this prestigious venture.”
Beyond station, the Airlock could at some future time, be detached and placed onto another on-orbit platform.
This is part of the overall transition at NASA from government-built and -run to privately-built and -run.