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Mon, Dec 11, 2006

Spacehab Module Gives Discovery Astronauts Added Room To Move

"Float-In Closet," Cargo Module Will Also Fly On Endeavour In '07

The seven astronauts aboard the space shuttle Discovery benefit from having the low-Earth-orbit equivalent of an enormous walk-in closet for more storage room. The commercially owned Spacehab logistics single module will serve as an extra "float-in closet" during the 12-day STS-116 mission to deliver hardware, supplies and a new crew member to the International Space Station.

Located inside the shuttle's payload bay, the Spacehab module more than doubles the storage capacity of the orbiter's middeck. The pressurized, powered and climate-controlled module provides a convenient 1,100-cubic-foot "shirtsleeve" environment for the astronauts. They can enter through a tunnel connected to the middeck without ever having to suit up and step out into space.

For STS-116, the module is filled almost to its three-ton capacity. Mission Specialist Joan Higginbotham will serve as the "load master," overseeing the transfer of the module's 5,800 pounds of cargo to the International Space Station. Items to be delivered include crew essentials like food, clothing and water containers, as well as spacewalk tools, a television camera and critical spare parts.

The crew will free up room on the station by loading the Spacehab module with the Russian Elektron oxygen generator, and waste containers for the return trip to Earth.

Behind Spacehab in the payload bay are the P5 integrated truss segment and another Spacehab product: the integrated cargo carrier. Measuring almost 14 feet wide and 7.5 feet long, this versatile carrier acts as a shelf inside the bay. Cargo attached to either side of the carrier can be accessed by the shuttle's robotic arm or by spacewalking astronauts.

Among the equipment mounted on the carrier for STS-116 are debris panels to shield the station's Zvezda service module from micrometeorites, and three tiny microsatellites to be deployed late in the mission.

Spacehab modules and integrated cargo carriers are prepared for launch at the company's own payload processing facility in Cape Canaveral, FL near Kennedy Space Center. When the hardware is tested and certified to fly, it is transported to Kennedy and installed in the shuttle orbiter. The Spacehab logistics single module flying on STS-116 was installed along with the other payloads into Discovery's payload bay on November 11.

The modules can be configured for cargo or science research experiments, and come in single or double sizes, depending on the mission's unique needs. The first module, configured for research, lifted off on Space Shuttle Endeavour on mission STS-57 in 1993.

Another logistics module and integrated cargo carrier are slated to fly aboard Endeavour on the STS-118 mission, scheduled for launch in 2007.



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