BBC Homepage World Service Education
BBC Homepagelow graphics version | feedback | help
BBC News Online
 You are in: Sci/Tech
Front Page 
UK Politics 
Talking Point 
In Depth 

The BBC's Elaine Parke
"Space is no longer the final frontier"
 real 56k

Saturday, 14 July, 2001, 06:05 GMT 07:05 UK
Atlantis docks with space station
Atlantis from ISS
The docking was said to be smooth and uneventful
The Atlantis shuttle has docked with the International Space Station (ISS), delivering a "front door" for the space platform.

The two craft linked up early on Saturday above South America.

US space agency Nasa said that the docking was 15 minutes later than planned but otherwise smooth and uneventful.

It will take a total of three spacewalks to bolt the new airlock, and the gas tanks needed to operate it, on to the ISS.

When, fitted, the new airlock will simplify the currently complex depressurisation process.

As shuttle commander Steven Lindsey guided the shuttle in, astronaut Jim Voss aboard the ISS told its crew to smile for the space station cameras.

"You look beautiful," Lindsey said as he caught sight of the ISS.

"Well thanks, just wait until you get real close," Voss replied.

Universal connections

Up until now, whenever astronauts on the ISS have needed to go outside the platform, they have had to go through a docked space shuttle. Unlike the orbiter, the station does not have a proper airlock to allow astronauts to safely make the transition from a pressurised environment to the vacuum of space.

Airlock spec
Material - Aluminium
Length - 5.5 metres
Diameter - 4 metres
Weight - 6,064 kilograms
Volume - 34 cubic metres
Cost - $164 million, including gas tanks
The Joint Airlock Module (Jam) will make the presence of a shuttle unnecessary. What is more, its universal fittings mean it will not discriminate among spacesuits.

Unlike the shuttle's airlock, where the communications system and connections for oxygen and coolant will only accept American suits, the $164m Jam will eventually accept Russian connections as well.

Three-bedroom house

"Once the airlock is installed, the hatches between a visiting space shuttle and the space station can remain open," said Mike Hawes, Nasa Deputy Associate Administrator for the Space Station.

"This is important because in previous missions we've had to open and close the hatches several times to maintain correct pressure during spacewalks. Now, we'll be able to keep those doors open, providing greater efficiency during joint orbital activities."

The Jam, which measures four metres (13 feet) across and 5.5 metres (18 feet) in length, will be anchored to the ISS with the help of the station's advanced Canadarm2, which was added to the platform in April.

The airlock's installation will complete Phase Two of the space station's construction, which began in 1998 with the arrival of the Russian-built Zarya base block in orbit.

Once the Jam is in place, the platform will represent 424 cubic metres of living space - a greater volume than a conventional three-bedroom house.

Jam Nasa
The airlock allows easy access to the exterior of the ISS

Search BBC News Online

Advanced search options
Launch console
See also:

22 Apr 01 | Sci/Tech
Shuttle astronauts armed and ready
14 Mar 01 | Sci/Tech
Space station crews change over
12 Mar 01 | Sci/Tech
Astronauts make shuttle history
Internet links:

The BBC is not responsible for the content of external internet sites

Links to more Sci/Tech stories are at the foot of the page.

E-mail this story to a friend

Links to more Sci/Tech stories