The International Space Station may have the internal volume of a 747, but when it comes to getting things in and out, it's about as accessible as a small garden shed. To speed up the launching of small satellites, Boeing and NanoRacks announced today that they are partnering to build the first commercial airlock for the station, an addition that will triple the number of satellite launches after it's installed in 2019.

Currently, there are only two ways of getting from the ISS into space without losing cabin pressure. One is the large crew airlocks that are used by astronauts and the other is a small airlock attached to the Japanese Experimental module, which is used to launch CubeSats and other small payloads. The problem is, the latter can only handle so many satellites per launch cycle.

The NanoRacks Airlock Module will be larger and more robust than the current airlock and will be able to handle a larger traffic of satellites and other payloads going outside the station. As the first privately funded commercial airlock, the new module will be built by NanoRacks while Boeing will supply the Passive Common Berthing Mechanism to connect it with one of the US modules.

"The installation of NanoRacks' commercial airlock will help us keep up with demand," says Boeing International Space Station program manager Mark Mulqueen. "This is a big step in facilitating commercial business on the ISS."

Source:
Boeing