Tag Archives: NanoRacks

NanoRacks and Boeing to build private airlock on ISS

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.

Private company proposes commercial airlock for ISS

The competion heats up: The private company NanoRacks has proposed building a large airlock for ISS which could be used to launch private cubesates while also allowing NASA to eliminate spacewalks by bringing faulty equipment inside for repairs.

For commercial opportunities, NanoRacks has a small satellite launcher, and it is also designing a “haybale” system to launch as many as 192 cubesats at a time. After the airlock is configured, it would be depressurized and sealed. Then a station robotic arm could grab it, move it away from the vehicle, and deploy its payloads.

NASA is also interested in the opportunity to potentially fix large, external components of the space station. Before the space shuttle’s retirement, NASA used the sizable delivery vehicle to stash dozens of replacement pumps, storage tanks, controller boxes, batteries, and other equipment on the station, known as ORUs. When one of these components broke, astronauts would conduct a spacewalk to install a replacement unit.

However sometimes the problem with a broken unit is relatively minor, such as a problematic circuit card. With a larger airlock, damaged components could be brought inside the station, assessed, and possibly fixed, saving NASA the expense of building and delivering a new unit to the station—or losing a valuable spare. Finally, the space agency could use the airlock to dispose of trash that accumulates on station and can be difficult to get rid of.

It is exactly this kind of technology, spurred by the lure of profits, that interplanetary spaceships need if they are going to be maintainable far from home.

Bad training of the astronauts led to the failure of the student experiments recently on ISS.

Bad training of the ISS astronauts by the company supplying the experiments was the reason the student experiments were never turned on.

“Previous crews were given on the ground review and personal interaction prior to launch,” Manber said. “For this mission, the astronaut received hardware training solely via video while on the space station. Clearly, there was a miscommunication resulting from the video instruction.”

ISS to finally get an experimental centrifuge

At last! The ISS is to finally going to get an experimental centrifuge.

I have studied at length all the research done on all the space station ever launched, from Skylab, all the Russian Salyut stations, Mir, and now ISS, and from I could tell, only once was a centrifuge experiment put in space, by the Russians. Though the centrifuge was small and the results inconclusive, they suggested that even the addition of a truly miniscule amount of force could significantly mitigate the effects of weightlessness on plants and materials.

To finally get an experimental centrifuge on ISS is wonderful news. In order to build an interplanetary spaceship as cheaply and as efficiently as possible using centrifugal force to create artificial gravity we need to know the minimum amount of centrifugal force we need. Less energy will probably require less complex engineering, which should also require less launch weight to orbit, lowering the cost in all ways.