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Thales Alenia Space Delivers the First Cygnus PCM Unit

At the eve of the last launch of the Space Shuttle, the urgency to provide for alternate means to replenish the International Space Shuttle grows. As the US Administration decided some years ago, this activity will no longer be managed directly by NASA, but by private entities on commercial basis. Accordingly, NASA launched its COTS (Commercial Orbital Transportation Services) research and development initiative to coordinate the accomplishment of this demanding task.
Thales Alenia Space announced the delivery of the first unit of the new Pressurized Cargo Module (PCM) to Orbital Sciences Corporation, a unit developed to transport cargo to the International Space Station. This first PCM will be used for the Cygnus programme demonstration mission under NASA’s COTS initiative. The contract between Thales Alenia Space and Orbital Sciences to develop and build the body of the new PCM module was signed at Paris Air Show 2009, just two years ago.
The module will leave soon the Thales Alenia Space plant in Turin headed for the NASA Wallops Island Space Facility in Virginia, where Orbital Sciences Corporation will integrate it with service module (SM), to form the complete Cygnus automatic transport spacecraft. The first flight is currently scheduled for December 2011 using Orbital’s new Taurus II launcher.
After the demonstration flight, Thales Alenia Space will provide Orbital with eight other PCM units to be used for ISS cargo transport - crew supplies, spare parts and equipment for scientific experiments - under Orbital’s Commercial Resupply Services (CRS) contract with NASA.
The first PCM unit will be followed by another three “standard configuration” units, capable of transporting up to 2,000 kg of cargo, and will be completed by 5 “enhanced configuration” units, with a transport capacity of up to 2,700 kg. Loaded with garbage from the ISS, each Cygnus spacecraft will conclude its one-shot mission with a burn-up as it re-enters the atmosphere.
“The delivery of the first Pressurized Cargo Module for commercial orbital cargo transportation represents a significant event for Thales Alenia Space,” stated Luigi Maria Quaglino, Senior Vice President and General Manager Business Unit Space Infrastructures & Transportation of Thales Alenia Space. “It is a strong sign of continuity of our role as a main supplier in the space infrastructures and transportation sector. In addition, we want to highlight that the PCM delivery event is further evidence of the space industry’s gravitation toward engaging the private sector on a commercial basis to fulfill critical services and that our company is well placed to play a major role in this new tendency.”
The Cygnus spacecraft consists of a service module (SM), built by Orbital, integrated with the PCM pressurized module developed by Thales Alenia Space. Based on thirty years of experience in the infrastructures and transport systems field, the Cygnus PCMs developed by Thales Alenia Space are based on the expertise and skills acquired on previous and similar programmes developed for the ISS, such as MPLM (Multi-Purpose Logistics Module), built by the company on behalf of the Italian Space Agency for NASA, and ATV (Automated Transfer Vehicle) Cargo Carrier, built by Thales Alenia Space for the European Space Agency. Thales Alenia Space provided for 50% of ISS pressurized volume, all manufactured in Turin. It is also a key player in the Columbus laboratory and was prime contractor for Node 2, Node 3 and Cupola elements.

In the picture: The body of the first PCM (Pressurized Cargo Module) manufactured by Thales Alenia Space (Turin) for the new Cygnus unmanned commercial resupply vehicle. On May 27, the module was ready fortransfer to Orbital Sciences Corporation in the USA. After integration with the Service Module, it will be used for the demonstration mission of the Cygnus programme. (Aeromedia)

(Aeromedia, May 2011)