Friday, May 29, 2015

ISS Leonardo Cargo Module Moved to Make Room for Commercial Crew Vehicles

The Permanent Multipurpose Module is in the grips of the Canadarm2 robotic arm during its relocation from the Harmony module to the Tranquility module Wednesday morning. Credit: NASA

The International Space Station’s (ISS) Leonardo Permanent Multipurpose Module (PMM) was successfully relocated from the Harmony module to the Tranquility module Wednesday morning. Engineers from Canada and Houston jointly maneuvered the PMM with the Canadarm2 robotic arm. NASA Astronauts Terry Virts and Scott Kelly monitored the installation then successfully bolted the PMM in place on Tranquility. The change is part of a long line of tasks to allow the Station to berth more visiting spacecraft – Leonardo’s move frees a docking port. Astronauts will install international docking adapters later this year during spacewalks to welcome commercial crew spacecraft with astronauts and cargo.

Basically, the module relocation procedure – which will, in future, involve relocating multiple modules and components from their current Space Shuttle optimized positions – on the ISS is necessary to provide an additional docking port for future commercial crewed vehicles. At this time, only one docking port is available.

Leonardo was built and designed by Italy’s ASI space agency to transport cargo and equipment to the Space Station inside NASA’s Space Shuttle. Modified to improve its shielding and visibility to visiting craft, it was attached permanently to the Station in 2011 after visiting the outpost seven times.

Leonardo is used for storing cargo bags, spare parts and food. One cargo rack is reserved for astronauts to use as a personal locker for their clothes, personal hygiene material and other belongings.

In exchange for supplying Leonardo, NASA agreed that ASI could send astronauts to the Station. One of these flights is now being filled by ESA’s Samantha Cristoforetti.

The crew might need some time to reorient themselves with the new layout. One of the jobs for the remodelling is to stick new signs on the module’s walls to reflect the new arrangement.

NASA and its commercial partners are hoping to conduct the first flights commercial crew flights as early as 2017.

Credit: NASAESA

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