The Director General of the European Space Agency, Mr Antonio Rodotà, and the President of the Agenzia Spaziale Italiana (ASI), Mr Sergio de Julio, have signed on 12 December in Rome an arrangement concerning the management, execution and funding of the Nodes 2 and 3 for the International Space Station in which Europe, together with the USA, Russia, Japan and Canada, is participating as one of the five International Partners.
Under this arrangement, ESA will entrust to ASI the responsibility for the development and manufacture of the two Nodes, which will be built under the prime contractorship of the Italian company Alenia Aerospazio.
The Nodes constitute the interconnecting elements between various laboratory and habitation modules of the Station. They also provide for crew and experiment support. The Station will have three Nodes: Node 1 has already been developed and manufactured by US industry under NASA contract, Node 2 and Node 3 will be "made in Europe" using European know-how and technology. According to a barter agreement between ESA and NASA, signed on 8 October 1997 in Turin, ESA will provide the two Nodes, as well as additional high-technology laboratory equipment and services to NASA, while the US Space Shuttle will ferry the European Columbus Laboratory module to the Space Station on a launch presently planned for October 2001. The launch of Node 2, the first European-built Node of the Station, is currently planned for April 2001.
The arrangement concerning the Nodes which has now been concluded between ESA and ASI allows Europe to take full advantage of the experience gained by Italian industry through the development of the Mini-Pressurised Logistics Module (MPLM) and the synergy between the MPLM, Nodes 2 and 3, and the European Columbus laboratory module. The MPLM has been developed under a bilateral ASI/NASA agreement. The MPLM, the two Nodes, and the Columbus laboratory all make use of the same structural concept.
More information on ESA is available on the World Wide Web at http://www.esa.int
More information and pictures of Nodes 2 and 3 are available on the World Wide Web at http://www.alespazio.it/program/infr/iss/friss.htm