Russian Space Module Set for Launch Aboard the Shuttle Atlantis

Inside a building at Port Canaveral where commercialAmerican space habitation modules once readied for flight, a hundred Russianspecialists have taken up residence to prepare their hardware for launch to theInternational Space Station.

The Mini Research Module 1, dubbed Rassvet or"dawn," will be ferried to the orbiting outpost aboard the spaceshuttle Atlantis during a construction mission planned for liftoff May 14 fromKennedy Space Center.

NASA is hauling up the 18,000-pound module in Atlantis'payload bay as part of international bartering agreement. The shuttle crew willoversee Rassvet's installation onto the station's Zarya control module to serveas a new docking port for visiting Russianvehicles.

Taking advantage of the Rassvet's interior volume, NASA haspacked 3,000 pounds of equipment, spare parts, food and provisions in themodule for trucking to the station. And an airlock and radiator arepiggybacking on the side of Rassvet for eventual relocation to theMulti-Purpose Laboratory Module when it is launched to the station by Russia in2012.

The Russian aerospace firm RSC Energia built Rassvet andshipped the module to Florida last December for final assembly and checkoutprocedures. The company's team of workers deployed to the U.S. have used theold Spacehabfacility south of Kennedy Space Center to do the pre-flight activities.

Spacehab modules flew on numerous shuttle missions to housea variety of experiments and also truck cargo to orbit. The commercial moduleswere connected to the shuttle crew cabin by tunnels, affording a shirt-sleeveenvironment for the astronauts to work in during stand-alone science missions,plus trips to the Russian space station Mir and the International SpaceStation. NASA last used a Spacehab module in 2007 and has no future plans tofly them on the remaining shuttle flights.

Rassvet will be moved to NASA's Space Station ProcessingFacility on April 2 where final touches occur before the module is placed intothe shuttle payload transporter on April 5.

Sharing the ride in Atlantis' cargo bay is a reusable palletstructure loaded with fresh batteries for the station's oldest power truss, anew Ku-band communications antenna and an additional handling device for theDextre robot. The 8,150-pound pallet has been processed at the Spacehabbuilding too and heads over to KSC to join Rassvet in the payload canister onApril 7.

That canister, which is shaped like the shuttle's bay, willbe rotated to stand up vertically and then delivered to launch pad 39A on April15. Atlantis rolls out to the pad on April 20 to receive its payloads and getready to fly a few weeks later.

Here is a collection of photos of Rassvet and the cargopallet taken at Spacehab during a press viewing opportunity held on Thursday,March 25.

View a slideshow of Rassvet processing at Spaceflight Now.

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Spaceflight Now Editor

Justin Ray is the former editor of the space launch and news site Spaceflight Now, where he covered a wide range of missions by NASA, the U.S. military and space agencies around the world. Justin was space reporter for Florida Today and served as a public affairs intern with Space Launch Delta 45 at what is now the Cape Canaveral Space Force Station before joining the Spaceflight Now team. In 2017, Justin joined the United Launch Alliance team, a commercial launch service provider.