A newpressurized module that will serve as a sort of orbital storage closet forJapan's Kibo laboratory at the International Space Station (ISS) received awarm welcome Tuesday at NASA's Florida spaceport.
ISSofficials held the welcome ceremony in the Space Station Processing Facility atNASA'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) Kibolaboratory once in orbit.
Knownformally as the Experiment Logistics Module Pressurized Section, the new spacestation piece joins Kibo'sPressurized Module - a 37-foot (11.2-meter) long vessel - at KSC, though aporch-like external experiment platform is still in Japan, JAXA officials said.The logistics module will hold equipment and tools for the Kibo laboratory andfirst arrived at KSC in mid-March.
The JAXAlogistics module is due to launch towardsthe ISS no earlier than February 2008 aboard NASA's space shuttleEndeavour, to be followed by the longer pressurized laboratory in April. Themulti-component Kibo laboratory - whose name means "Hope" - is also known asthe station's Japan Experiment Module (JEM) and will have its own robotic armwhen complete.
"Now we areperforming launch site operations to check them out," Kichiro Imagawa, JAXA'sJEM development project manager, told SPACE.com Tuesday. "We think it'svery important to complete these tasks in the time remaining before launch."
Imagawasaid Kibo's external platform, which will allow astronauts and scientists toperform materials experiments by exposing samples to the space environment,will be delivered to KSC next year.
Japan'sKibo laboratory is one of several international laboratories awaiting launchtowards the ISS. The European Space Agency's Columbuslaboratory module is due to launch to the station no earlier than Dec. 6 ofthis year aboard NASA's shuttle Atlantis.
The Russianaerospace firm RSC Energia is also constructing a multipurpose researchlaboratory for Russia's Federal Space Agency. The new module is slated tolaunch towards the ISS atop a Proton rocket at the end of 2008, Russia's InterfaxNews Agency reported last week.
Constructionof the ISS is slated to be complete by September 2010, when NASA plans toretire its aging space shuttle fleet.
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