A new pressurized module that will serve as a sort of orbital storage closet for Japan's Kibo laboratory at the International Space Station (ISS) received a warm welcome Tuesday at NASA's Florida spaceport.
ISS officials held the welcome ceremony in the Space Station Processing Facility at NASA's Kennedy Space Center in Cape Canaveral, Florida to greet the new module, which will form part of the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency's (JAXA) Kibo laboratory once in orbit.
Known formally as the Experiment Logistics Module Pressurized Section, the new space station piece joins Kibo's Pressurized Module - a 37-foot (11.2-meter) long vessel - at KSC, though a porch-like external experiment platform is still in Japan, JAXA officials said. The logistics module will hold equipment and tools for the Kibo laboratory and first arrived at KSC in mid-March.
The JAXA logistics module is due to launch towards the ISS no earlier than February 2008 aboard NASA's space shuttle Endeavour, to be followed by the longer pressurized laboratory in April. The multi-component Kibo laboratory - whose name means "Hope" - is also known as the station's Japan Experiment Module (JEM) and will have its own robotic arm when complete.
"Now we are performing launch site operations to check them out," Kichiro Imagawa, JAXA's JEM development project manager, told SPACE.com Tuesday. "We think it's very important to complete these tasks in the time remaining before launch."
Imagawa said Kibo's external platform, which will allow astronauts and scientists to perform materials experiments by exposing samples to the space environment, will be delivered to KSC next year.
Japan's Kibo laboratory is one of several international laboratories awaiting launch towards the ISS. The European Space Agency's Columbus laboratory module is due to launch to the station no earlier than Dec. 6 of this year aboard NASA's shuttle Atlantis.
The Russian aerospace firm RSC Energia is also constructing a multipurpose research laboratory for Russia's Federal Space Agency. The new module is slated to launch towards the ISS atop a Proton rocket at the end of 2008, Russia's Interfax News Agency reported last week.
Construction of the ISS is slated to be complete by September 2010, when NASA plans to retire its aging space shuttle fleet.
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