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Node 2 Added To The Space Station

NASA mission STS-120 has been successfully concluded, having accomplished its main aim with the insertion of Node 2 “Harmony” connecting module in the main body of the International Space Station. Harmony was manufactured at the Turin factory of Thales Alenia Space, a Thales and Finmeccanica joint-venture.
Shuttle Discovery departed on October 23, 2007, at 11:38 a.m. EST, from Launch Pad 39A of Kennedy Space Center, Cape Canaveral. STS-120 was the 23rd shuttle mission to the International Space Station. Retired U.S. Air Force Col. Pamela A. Melroy commanded the STS-120. Melroy, a veteran shuttle pilot, was the second woman to command a shuttle. U.S. Marine Corps Col. George D. Zamka served as pilot. The flight's mission specialists were Scott E. Parazynski, U.S. Army Col. Douglas H. Wheelock, Stephanie D. Wilson and Paolo Nespoli from Italy. Zamka, Wheelock and Nespoli were making their first spaceflight. Expedition 15/16 Flight Engineer Clayton Anderson returned to Earth from the space station aboard shuttle mission STS-120. That flight carried his replacement, Daniel Tani, to the station. Tani will return on shuttle mission STS-122.
After four days of space flight, 11 days moored to the ISS, four space walks (one of which was to repair the broken P6 solar array), Discovery landed at Cape Canaveral, at 1:01 p.m. EST. Mission duration was 15 days, 2 hours, 23 minutes. This latest mission has been an important milestone which will ensure full international exploitation of the ISS.
The joining of Node 2 to the ISS was named “Missione Esperia” (code STS 120/10A). It was coordinated, on behalf of ASI (the Italian Space Agency) and ESA (the European Space Agency), by Italian astronaut Paolo Nespoli. Esperia was the name that the ancient Greek navigators gave to the Southern coast of Italy.
Weighing 31,500 pounds (14 tonnes) when loaded for flight, the 7-metre-long, 4.6-metre-wide pressurized cylindrical Node 2 component will increase the living and working space inside the station to approximately 500 cubic meters. During the long mission, in his role as a mission specialist, Paolo Nespoli took also part in three of five spacewalks and carried out a series of ESA/ASI scientific experiments.
The next element to be integrated into the Space Station, thanks to the presence of Node 2, is the Columbus European Laboratory, which will be deployed during the next mission (shuttle Atlantis) departing from Cape Canaveral on December 6, 2007. Designed and built by Thales Alenia Space on behalf of ESA, Columbus will operate as a micro-gravity laboratory for material science, fluid physics and bio-medicine throughout its expected 10 years lifetime.
The Nodes manufactured by Thales Alenia Space incorporate the permanent lodging for four astronauts, water purifying and personal hygiene equipment, the disposal of carbon dioxide and the generation of oxygen. Structurally, Nodes 2 and 3 are similar, with a diameter of 4,6 metres, length of 7 metres, and each weighing 14 tonnes at launch. In particular, Node 2 will be used as a passageway between the European science laboratory Columbus, the American Destiny, and the Japanese Kibo. It will also be used as a docking port for the Japanese HII Transfer Vehicle, ASI’s MPLM logistics modules, and for other Shuttle missions. Node 2 will also enable the Station robotic arm, Canadarm2, to operate from a powered grapple fixture on the exterior of the module.
The current ISS’ structure is built around 3 Nodes. While Node 1 was manufactured in the United States, the design and manufacture of Nodes 2 and 3 (more advanced and complex) have been awarded to ESA. Thales Alenia Space, as prime contractor, is responsible for the design, development, testing and integration of Nodes 2 and 3, and also provides, through the ALTEC Center in Turin, the necessary support to NASA for the final verifications, launch preparation and various phases of the mission.
Node 3, the last and more important connection element between the ISS pressurized modules, is planned for launch in 2010. Node 3 will allow an increase in the ISS permanent crew to six/seven astronauts: The current crew is a maximum of three members.

In the picture: Shuttle Discovery connected to the International Space Station through Node 2. (via Thales Alenia Space ISS016E006573)

(Aeromedia, November 2007)