The Unity connecting module, the first U.S.-built component of the International Space Station, moved a step closer to orbit Sept. 4 when Boeing, the manufacturer of Unity, officially handed over the module's "keys" to NASA.
NASA officially accepted the module after review and certification of Unity's construction by NASA and Boeing station managers at NASA's Kennedy Space Center, FL. Unity is scheduled for launch aboard Space Shuttle Endeavour on the STS-88 mission on Dec. 3. Unity will be launched two weeks after the first station component, the U.S.-funded, Russian-built Zarya module, is launched from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakstan. Unity will be mated to Zarya by Endeavour's astronauts to begin the five-year orbital assembly of the International Space Station.
Unity is a critical component of the International Space Station, a six-sided connector with a berthing port on each side. Along with Unity at Kennedy, more than a half-dozen major pieces of U.S. and foreign-built hardware are now being prepared for launch.
"It is not by chance that we named this module Unity," International Space Station program manager Randy Brinkley said following the review. "The name certainly represents all of the hard work by the Boeing teams and the NASA teams, as well as the worldwide space station team. The Unity module has been a great joint effort."
Unity was manufactured by Boeing at NASA's Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, AL. It was transported from Alabama to Florida in June 1997, where final assembly and launch preparations began. Attached to Unity for launch are two conical mating adapters, also built by Boeing and officially accepted by NASA last week.
As the Unity acceptance review board completed its official work, Royce Mitchell, Boeing's ISS deputy program manager, handed his NASA counterparts plaques bearing a replica of a tool used to open the hatches on Unity and a symbolic "key" to the module.
The International Space Station draws upon the resources and expertise of 16 nations and is the largest and most complex international scientific project ever undertaken. Five international partnersÑ the United States; Canada; member states of the European Space Agency; Japan and Russia; as well as Brazil and Italy as participants through the United StatesÑare working together in a joint endeavor to explore space for the benefit of all humankind.
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