Article 1217Z To boost commercial activity, NASA may add private airlock to ISS

To boost commercial activity, NASA may add private airlock to ISS

Eric Berger
from Ars Technica on (#1217Z)

Astronaut Karen Nyberg gazes out of the International Space Station's cupola. A company, NanoRacks, wants to add a commercial airlock to the same module. (credit: NASA)

When NASA engineers designed the International Space Station during the 1990s, they didn’t envision the orbital outpost becoming a hub of commercial activity; nevertheless, that has become one of the most important contributions of ISS to US spaceflight. And as it nurtures American enterprise in low-Earth orbit, the station is increasingly running into a bottleneck: getting scientific research and other payloads outside.

Now a Texas company, NanoRacks, has proposed a solution. It is offering to build an airlock that will be attached to the space station and provide the capability to deploy cubesats and larger satellites. The $12 million-15 million airlock would also allow NASA to bring in costly large pumps and storage tanks for repairs rather than disposing of them.

“We developed a commercial pathway to the station, and now we want to extend that pathway outside the station,” Jeff Manber, the company’s managing director, told Ars in an interview. “This is a sign that we believe in the future of the station.”

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