The first piece of the Japanese Experiment Module "Kibo" will soon become part of the International Space Station. The first Kibo component will be carried to the space station on the STS-123 space shuttle mission, scheduled for lift-off in March 2008.
Kibo, which is the Japanese word for "hope," is Japan's first human spaceflight facility. It has six components, which will be taken into space and assembled on the International Space Station over the course of three shuttle launches in 2008 and 2009.
Once complete, Kibo will consist of two research facilities, each with an attached logistics module. One of the research facilities, the pressurized module, will be a laboratory in which astronauts conduct experiments. The other, an exposed facility, will allow scientific research to take place in the vacuum of space. Kibo also will have a robotic arm called the Remote Manipulator System and an Inter-Orbit Communication System unit. An airlock on the pressurized module will allow the robotic arm to transfer experiments to the exposed facility.
Experiments in Kibo will focus on space medicine, biology, Earth observations, material production, biotechnology and communications research. Kibo experiments and systems will be operated from a mission control at the Space Station Operations Facility at Tsukuba Space Center in Ibaraki Prefecture, Japan, just north of Tokyo.
The STS-123 shuttle mission will deliver and install Kibo's first component: the Japanese Experiment Logistics Module-Pressurized Section, or ELM-PS. The module is a short cylinder that will attach to the top of the pressurized module and can hold eight experiment racks. It measures 14.4 feet in diameter and is 12.8 feet long, much shorter than the pressurized module. The pressurized module has the same diameter as the ELM-PS but is 36.7 feet long, or about the size of a large tour bus.
The ELM-PS will be temporarily attached to the space station's Harmony node. After the pressurized module is brought up on the STS-124 shuttle mission, targeted for May 2008, the ELM-PS will be moved to the top of the pressurized module. A subsequent shuttle flight in 2009 will deliver and install the rest of the facility.
The STS-123 shuttle mission also will deliver a new Canadian component to the International Space Station. The Special Purpose Dexterous Manipulator, nicknamed "Dextre" by a Canada-wide naming contest, will work with the station's robotic arm, Canadarm2, and allow astronauts to replace hardware outside the station without doing a spacewalk.
Dextre will operate like a hand for the Canadarm2. Dextre's two smaller arms will be capable of handling the delicate assembly tasks currently performed by astronauts during spacewalks. The two arms will allow Dextre to transport objects, use tools, and install and remove equipment on the space station. Dextre also is equipped with lights, video equipment, a tool platform and tool holders. Sensors will allow the robot to "feel" the objects it is dealing with and automatically react to movements or changes. Astronauts will operate Dextre remotely from inside the space station.
The crew of the 25th space shuttle mission to the space station will be commanded by retired Navy Capt. Dominic Gorie. The pilot will be Air Force Col. Gregory H. Johnson. Mission specialists will include Rick Linnehan, Air Force Maj. Robert L. Behnken, Navy Capt. Mike Foreman and Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency astronaut Takao Doi. It will be the first spaceflight for Johnson, Behnken and Foreman.
The mission also will take NASA astronaut Garrett Reisman to the International Space Station, where he will stay as a member of the station's Expedition 16 and 17 crews. STS-123 will bring home European Space Agency astronaut Léopold Eyharts, who has been on the station since February. Reisman is expected to return with the crew of STS-124 in June.
The STS-123 mission will require a total of five spacewalks. The first spacewalk by mission specialists Rick Linnehan and Garrett Reisman will prepare the ELM-PS for installation. While Linnehan and Garrett work on the outside of the module, JAXA astronaut Takao Doi will install the module from inside the shuttle using the shuttle's robotic arm. Doi will then be the first person to venture inside the module.
The next few spacewalks will be dedicated to Dextre. Dextre will launch as five pieces: two arms, two wrist end effectors and a main body attached to a pallet. The crew will take the pallet out of the shuttle's cargo bay and attach it to the station. Astronauts will then assemble the components during part of the first spacewalk, all of the second spacewalk and part of the third one.
The final two spacewalks will take care of tasks not associated with the installation of any new station hardware but rather with spacecraft maintenance.
On the fourth spacewalk, astronauts will replace a remote power control module and test a shuttle tile repair material.
On the fifth spacewalk, mission specialists Robert L. Behnken and Mike Foreman will store on the station the boom that attaches to the shuttle's robotic arm for heat shield inspections. The boom is being stored in orbit because the next shuttle will not have enough room to carry both the boom and the larger Kibo pressurized module in the shuttle's cargo bay.
International Space Station
Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency →
Kibo Japanese Experiment Module
Experiment Logistics Module-Pressurized Section Installation Videos
Canadian Space Agency →
A Helping Hand for the Space Station
NASA Education Web Site →
Heather R. Smith/NASA Educational Technology Services