Boeing, NanoRacks partner to develop new space station airlock

ISS prime contractor Boeing will build and install the airlock’s Passive Common Berthing Mechanism.   File photo

Boeing and NanoRacks will partner to develop the first privately funded commercial airlock, enabling America to potentially triple the number of small satellites it can deploy from the International Space Station (ISS) during a single airlock cycle.

The NanoRacks Airlock Module, which is planned to be attached to the ISS U.S. segment in 2019, will increase the capability of transferring equipment, payloads and deployable satellites from inside the ISS to outside, increasing the utilization of ISS.

ISS prime contractor Boeing will build and install the airlock’s Passive Common Berthing Mechanism, the hardware used to connect the pressurized modules of the ISS.

“The installation of NanoRacks’ commercial airlock will help us keep up with demand,” Boeing International Space Station program manager Mark Mulqueen said. “This is a big step in facilitating commercial business on the ISS."

Currently, the United States uses the airlock on the ISS Japanese Experiment Module, officials said. This new commercial airlock will be larger and more robust to better handle increasing market requirements.

“We are entering a new chapter in the space station program where the private sector is taking on more responsibilities,'' NanoRacks CEO Jeffrey Manber said. "We see this as only the beginning and are delighted to team with our friends at Boeing.”

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