Assembly of the European Space Agency's (ESA) cupola observation module for the International Space Station (ISS) has been completed by Alenia Spazio in Turin, Italy. Weighing 1.8t, the 2m (6ft)-diameter and 1.5m-long unit, described as a "control tower" and equipped with six lateral windows and one skylight, will be shipped to the Kennedy Space Center for launch on Space Shuttle ISS mission 2J-A, scheduled for 2009. The cupola provides a panoramic view for guiding operations outside the station. A second cupola was to have been built, under a 1999 agreement between NASA and ESA, but this is now unlikely. The agreement to build the cupolas was made in exchange for NASA transport of five ESA external payloads to the ISS aboard the Space Shuttle.

Source: Flight International