Later this year, SpaceX’s Falcon 9 rocket will fly out of central Florida, carrying a large metal cup to be mounted outside the International Space Station. Hardware is the first commercial aircraft of its kind, designed to lift payloads and other objects from a pressurized space station into a space vacuum.
Airlock is a product of nanorox, an aerospace company that helps private customers enter space. Until now, the company has created small space hardware such as standardized research boxes that users can use to conduct experiments in the space station’s microgravity environment. It has also developed its own satellite deployment used to launch small space probes into orbit – either from the ISS or from small free-flying spacecraft.
But this commercial plane – called the Bishop – probably NanoRax is the largest hardware ever built. Shaped like a bell vessel, the metal airlock attaches to an available port on the outside of the RSS and creates a small circular bump on the outside of the orbital lab. A set of clamps and mechanisms are attached to the airlock at the edges of the port, which ensures that there is an airtight seal. By opening the hatch of the port, astronauts can store items on the plane.
“Once it gets there, it’s just extra real estate until you want to use it,” says Mike Lewis, chief innovation officer at Nanorax, which gave Bishop a virtual tour. The Verge. “We can use it in many ways, the first of which is to bring things out.”
When the payloads are placed inside the bishop, the astronauts close the hatch of the harbor and draw air from the aircraft through a pump. Then, a robotic arm outside the space station can grab the bishop from outside and remove him from the harbor, exposing the objects inside to the space vacuum. It’s like someone removing a round cap from their head. Once any of the planned activities have been completed, the arm can be repositioned at the airlock port, where the bishop reconnects and creates another airtight seal. “When you go out into the water, it’s like a submarine, except for the difference, you go into space,” says Lewis.
Currently, the space station has three airlocks – two that allow people to exit the station, and one that uses airlock payloads in Japanese test module to launch into space. So far, the Japanese aircraft has deployed the satellites of Nanorax customers into space. With Bishop, the company has another option to get things out, which would be more than five times the current size of the Japanese aircraft. This means that more users will be able to access space in a timely manner by deleting backlogs created by providing only one airlock for deployment.
One of the plane’s big goals is to double as a satellite deployer. Customers can attach deployment boxes inside the bishop and place their satellites inside. Then, as the aircraft opens and reaches space, the deployment will launch their satellites into orbit around the Earth. Do not do things that expel the bishop Yes Either must be long-term satellites. NASA has a contract to pack trash cans from ISS into containers that will shoot from space into space. Containers will quickly fall out of orbit and burn up in the Earth’s atmosphere. “A good side effect makes it a great beautiful shooting star,” says Lewis.
Bishop can also be used to expose experiments to space emptiness. A customer, a Japanese startup called GITAI, Bishop will test its new robotic arm inside. Through it, the company can see how its technology stands in the emptiness or stressful atmosphere of space. Nanorax also envisions increasing aeronautical research payloads to observe certain parts of the Earth from space. Payloads and tests can be attached to the outside of the airlock as the company included adapters outside the Bishop. The bishop can even be used to make the equipment needed for astronauts to travel in space outside the RSS.
The company is currently completing and finalizing the aircraft, with the goal of sending the hardware to NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida within the next two weeks. Bishop will then launch SpaceX’s next cargo mission to the space station, which is currently mid-November. When the dragon arrives at the RSS, the station’s robotic arm pulls the bishop out of the trunk and connects it to its final parking lot.
The plane got its name from the Bishop of Chess, a piece that can move in any direction on the board. The name refers to the bishop’s diversity and various strategies when attached to the station’s robotic arm. This acknowledges Nanorax’s strategy in the future. The company even has the bold dreams of creating independent floating space stations built from recycled fuel tanks. Such stations may have similar airlocks, and the bishop may one day be transferred from the RSS to such a service.
Now, Nanorax is focused on helping their customers get their payloads into space faster, which is why they created Bishop first. “The best reason to build it commercially is not through a government program, we needed it, we needed it now,” Lewis said. “We saw the need for this in our customer base and future plans.”