Space Station's Largest Lab Gets Second Room
Japan's Kibo laboratory is seen with its rooftop storage room in place in this still image taken on June 6, 2008 from a camera outside the ISS.
Credit: NASA TV.

This story was updated at 8:32 p.m. EDT.

HOUSTON - The International Space Station?s (ISS) giant Japanese laboratory got a second room Friday after astronauts attached its attic-like storage room.

Wielding the space station?s robotic arm, astronauts plucked the small storage room from a temporary berth and stuck it atop its permanent home on the roof of Japan?s new tour bus-sized Kibo laboratory.

?Good job,? said Japanese astronaut Akihiko Hoshide after his crewmate, NASA astronaut Karen Nyberg, eased the storage room into place at about 3:58 p.m. EDT (1958 GMT). Hoshide and station flight engineer Greg Chamitoff locked the spare Kibo room in place a few minutes later.

The storage room, known as the Japanese Logistics Module, is a squat cylinder about 14.4 feet (4.4 meters) wide designed to hold spare parts, experiments and other equipment for Japan?s $1 billion main Kibo lab. It arrived last March to await its parent module.

Discovery shuttle astronauts delivered the 37-foot (11 meter) Kibo laboratory earlier this week, then bounced off its curved walls in an ad hoc opening ceremony before filling it with phone booth-sized equipment racks.

?It?s awesome to enter a completely new module,? station commander Sergei Volkov told reporters Friday during a series of televised interviews. ?It?s very impressive.?

While it may not that new car smell, Discovery?s commander Mark Kelly - who has called the Kibo laboratory the ?Lexus of station modules? - said Friday that giant room does have a ?new car feel.?

?It?s incredibly big,? Kelly said in the interviews. ?A lot of room, you have to be extra careful. You can get out in the middle and you can?t reach a handrail, and you can get kind of stuck there for a while.?

Japan?s Kibo lab is the third new room for the space station this year and the third research laboratory to be installed at the orbiting outpost. The European Columbus laboratory arrived in February to join NASA?s U.S. Destiny laboratory already aboard the station.

Russia?s Zarya control and Zvezda service modules, and two airlocks, round out the station?s main rooms, which are connected by berthing points or smaller connecting nodes.

But the 32,000-pound (14,514-kg) Kibo lab is the largest of the station?s orbital rooms and is still incomplete. A porch-like exterior platform is slated to launch aboard a NASA space shuttle next year to be attached to the end of the module, which sports two windows, a small airlock and a robotic arm to manipulate external experiments. A smaller arm will also arrive with the new platform.

Astronauts also planned to power up Kibo?s main 33-foot (10-meter) robotic arm today to prepare for its first checkouts tomorrow. A spacewalk, the third of Discovery?s STS-124 mission, is on tap for Sunday to replace an empty nitrogen tank for the station?s cooling system.

Once that last spacewalk is complete, the astronauts are expected to reopen Kibo?s attic storage space for good on Monday, mission managers said.

?We?re going to make some pretty interesting scientific discoveries,? Kelly said of the Kibo lab, adding that with a larger space comes more room for science. ?It?s a big deal not only for Japan, the United States and Russia and the European partners and Canadians, but I think it?s a big deal for everybody on the planet.?

NASA is broadcasting Discovery's STS-124 mission live on NASA TV on Saturday. Click here for SPACE.com's shuttle mission updates and NASA TV feed.