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Docking Compartment


In December 1999, Washington-based Spacehab Inc. announced its plans to build in cooperation with RKK Energia a commercially operated module for the International Space Station. According to the company, the spacecraft, named Enterprise, was intended for media and entertainment activities onboard the ISS. The Enterprise, reportedly, would carry an "multimedia studio" designed among other things to deliver live TV broadcasts from orbit. As raising funds for the Enterprise project proved difficult, Spacehab tried to "reorient" the module toward the needs of the company's more traditional customer -- NASA. However, ultimately, the project had to be abandoned and replaced with Russian-built Mini-Research Module-1, MIM-1.

Russia to offer commercial module to station partners

Posted: 2001 March 4

Russian Aviation and Space Agency, Rosaviacosmos, endorsed the development of the first commercially operated module of the International Space Station, ISS, in the hope of renting the new spacecraft to its international partners.

The Enterprise module proposed by US-based Spacehab Inc. and developed by RKK Energia will take place of the Docking and Stowage Module, known by its Russian abbreviation as SSM, on the Russian segment of the ISS, according to the agreement reached in Moscow on February 16.

Alexander Derechin, head of RKK Energia's international marketing division, confirmed that his company signed the agreement on the Enterprise with Rosaviacosmos and Spacehab.

Last week, Rosaviacosmos officially requested NASA to evaluate the plan to replace the Docking and Stowage Module with the Enterprise.

Within the agreement with Spacehab Inc. and RKK Energia, Rosaviacosmos would provide the Proton rocket to launch the Enterprise. The use of the Proton will allow RKK Energia to expand the design of the Enterprise, to give it the capability of the habitation and experiment module. Spacehab and RKK Energia originally proposed the Enterprise as a commercial "multimedia studio" in space.

Earlier plans also called for the Enterprise to be launched from Baikonur by the Zenit rocket capable of delivery up to 13 tons into the low earth orbit. The Proton rocket with the estimated cost of around $100 million can lift as much as 21 tons into the similar orbit. According to Alexander Botvinko, Rosaviacosmos Deputy Director, the current design of the Enterprise, envisions a 12-ton class vehicle, based on the Soyuz spacecraft.

Enterprise rent

Russian space officials said that Rosaviacosmos planned to rent the Enterprise module to its partners at NASA, European Space Agency, ESA, and Japanese space agency NASDA. The new module will be offered "in a package" with the Soyuz TMA spacecraft, which could serve as "lifeboat" for the additional crewmembers working onboard the Enterprise. In such combination, the long-term crew of the ISS could be increased up to six people from present three.

Currently, NASA plans to build its own habitation module (known as US hab) as well as so-called Assured Crew Return Vehicle, ACRV. Combined they would provide the capabilities for six people onboard the ISS. However neither craft is expected to be ready anytime soon, if ever.

The latest ISS assembly schedule published by NASA calls for the US hab launch in September 2005, while the US-build ACRV is not expected to be operational until December of the same year. Moreover, some industry observers indicated that the US hab, developed by Boeing, might never fly due to severe cost overruns.

Japanese and European modules for the ISS are not expected to fly before May and October 2004, respectively.

In the meantime, the Spacehab Inc. and RKK Energia announced previously that the Enterprise module could be launched as early as 2003, or at least two years earlier than NASA would achieve six-member crew capability using its own hardware.

Soyuz TMA role

To use the Soyuz spacecraft as a lifeboat for a six-member station crew, two three-seat Soyuzes will have to be "parked" at the ISS simultaneously. One Soyuz has already docked to the ISS as a part of the Russian contribution in the ISS program and Rosaviacosmos was in negotiations with NASA about a commercial purchase of the second Soyuz for the US segment.

Specifically for this role, RKK Energia, developed so-called Soyuz TMA version of the standard Soyuz TM spacecraft. The TMA version, where "A" stands for "anthropometric," features a redesigned interior which allows taller crewmembers to board the craft. Without such limitations Soyuz TMA could serve as a "lifeboat," however its serial production was stalled by the lack of funds. NASA, which originally requested the development of the Soyuz TMA, refused to pay RKK Energia for the project, citing inability of the Russian government to finance the production of the vehicle.

FGB-2 module role

Rosaviacosmos decision to support Spacehab/RKK Energia project also means a setback for a rival alliance including Boeing and Moscow-based Khrunichev enterprise. Last July, two companies announced their own plans to launch so-called commercial space module, CSM, to the ISS.

Boeing and Khrunichev eyed the same docking port on the station for CSM, to which Spacehab and RKK Energia hoped to attach the Enterprise. Since CSM would be based on the available hardware, theoretically it could be launched earlier than the Enterprise module.

Khrunichev planned to convert FGB-2 control module into the CSM. The FGB-2 served as a back up for the Zarya control module, the first element of the ISS built by Khrunichev under contract with Boeing. By the time Boeing and Khrunichev announced their plans, the FGB-2 was about 65 - 70 percent complete.

Enterprise to ride Shuttle into orbit

Posted: 2001 Sept. 1

Within its plan to rent the Enterprise module for the needs of NASA, Spacehab and RKK Energia also negotiated with NASA the possibility of launching the Enterprise module on the Shuttle mission, originally reserved to transport Russia's Power and Science Platform , NEP, to the ISS.

According to the new plan the Enterprise would be launched along with streamlined NEP on the same Shuttle mission and attached to the ISS, by a robotic arm. Previously, RKK Energia considered launching the Enterprise onboard the Zenit, Yamal and Proton rockets. The launch onboard the Shuttle would eliminate the need for equipping the Enterprise with a space tug, which would deliver it to the ISS from the initial orbit.

Mini-Research module to take place of Enterprise

Posted: 2008 Oct. 15

With hopes to develop the Enterprise module long abandoned, its developer, RKK Energia still faced a challenge of filling the nadir (Earth-facing) docking port on the Zarya FGB control module with some kind of extension. Otherwise, with the addition of any element to the bottom docking port on the Node 1 module of the US segment, located just "next door," no safe clearance for the routine arrival of the Soyuz and Progress cargo ships could be ensured.

Since NASA still "owed" Russia a Shuttle flight for the launch of the US-owned Zarya FGB control module, RKK Energia continued studying different possibilities to use it. These plans however, had to speed up dramatically after the 2004 decision to abandon the Shuttle in 2010. Giving the short notice and its scarce resources, RKK Energia had decided to fashion a so-called Mini-Research Module 1, MIM1, (or MIM in Russian) out of a test version of a pressurized compartment for the Science and Power Platform, NEP. The latter had no chance of flying in its original shape anyway.

Now, RKK Energia had to catch one of the last Shuttle missions -- Utilization and Logistics Flight 4, ULF-4, -- to get the module to the station. As of beginning of 2008, the MIM1 module would have a mass of 7,900 kilograms and provide 18 cubic meters of pressurized volume for the crew, along with two "work stations" for scientific payloads to be developed by the Russian Academy of Sciences. Around five cubic meters would be available for permanent cargo stowage.

On its way to the station module could "pick up" up to 1,400 of internal cargo and 1,800 externally attached hardware. As most other Russian modules, MIM-1 would feature a passive docking port on its outer edge.

Page author: Anatoly Zak;

Last update: May 14, 2010

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The artist rendering of the Enterprise module released by Spacehab with the announcement of the project on Dec. 10, 1999. The module is shown docked to the nadir port of the Zarya module on the ISS. Credit: Spacehab Inc.

One of "reincarnations" of the Enterprise module. As of beginning of 2001, RKK Energia was still working on the final design of the module. It is known to include five windows and platforms for external payloads. Credit: RKK Energia