Military Embedded Systems

NanoRacks, Boeing team up to build commercial airlock for International Space Station


February 06, 2017

Mariana Iriarte

Technology Editor

Military Embedded Systems

NanoRacks, Boeing team up to build commercial airlock for International Space Station

HOUSTON. NanoRacks LLC and Boeing officials will team up to develop a privately funded commercial airlock. The goal is to enable the U.S. to potential triple the number of small satellites it can deploy from the International Space Station (ISS) during a single airlock cycle, Boeing officials say.

Under this partnership, Boeing will build and install the airlock’s Passive Common Berthing Mechanism (PCBM), which is the hardware used to connect the pressurized modules of the ISS. The PCBM hardware is being manufactured at the Boeing facility in Huntsville, Alabama. The company will also provide additional engineering services required for developing and manufacturing of the airlock.

In May 2016, NanoRacks and NASA signed a Space Act Agreement in order to install a private airlock module onboard the International Space Station. The NanoRacks Airlock Module will be both a permanent commercial uncrewed module onboard International Space Station, and also a module capable of being removed from the space station and used on a future commercial platform. The 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.

“This partnership is an important step in the commercial transition we’ll see on the ISS in coming years,” says Mark Mulqueen Boeing ISS program manager. “Utilizing a commercial airlock to keep up with the demand of deployment will significantly streamline our process.”

The in-house team at NanoRacks, led by Mr. Brock Howe, will oversee the project management, mechanical and avionics design engineering, safety, operations, quality assurance, mockups and crew training, and the final assembly, integration and testing of the Airlock. Additionally, NanoRacks will be manifesting the Airlock for launch in 2019.

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

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

NanoRacks is also working with ATA Engineering Inc. on this project. The company - based out of San Diego, California - will lead the structural and thermal analysis, testing services, and support of the airlock.

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