The International Space Station gets a remodel
Mankind's most remote outpost underwent a significant remodel this week, as an entire module of the International Space Station was relocated in order to make way for the next generation of American commercial spacecraft. The move didn't require a spacewalk, with operators instead making use of the 16-m (52-ft) robotic arm to grapple and maneuver the Leonardo, or Permanent Multipurpose Module (PMM).
The module in question isn't necessarily glamorous in purpose, being an orbital storage and laundry bin, but it has had a storied existence. It actually began its life as a haulage container, designed for the US Space Shuttle program by Italy's ASI Space Agency in exchange for NASA agreeing to send Italian astronauts to the station. In all, the container flew to the station seven times aboard various shuttles before being modified and becoming a permanent fixture of the station in 2011.
The 6.7 m (22 ft)-long container module was unbolted from the Unity docking node from inside the ISS by astronauts Terry Virts and Scott Kelly, allowing the operators of the outpost's robotic arm based in Houston, USA and Quebec, Canada to go about the delicate work of shifting the 10-tonne (11-ton) storage shed to its new home. In all, the move took around three and a half hours, after which Leonardo was successfully bolted in place at the Tranquility docking node.
The ongoing alterations to the ISS represent one of the most significant remodels of the outpost since its completion in 2011, and will be instrumental in returning manned launch capabilities to the ISS back to the United States. But for now, let's just hope none of the residents aboard the station try to open the wrong door.
The video below contains an animation of the moving process.