The European Space Agency (ESA) will provide Nodes 2 and 3 for the International Space Station, along with advanced-technology laboratory equipment, to NASA in exchange for a free launch of its Columbus Orbital Facility (COF) aboard the Space Shuttle.

The COF is due to be joined to the Station in late 2002. The Node 2, which will connect the COF with the Japanese Experiment Module, will be launched in 2000 and the Node 3 in about 2003.

The Nodes will be built by Alenia for the Italian Space Agency (ASI) under an agreement with ESA. The space agency is already developing small pressurised logistics-modules directly for NASA. The ASI's work for ESA will significantly reduce the deficit which Italy has accumulated under ESA's policy of juste retour - by which member countries receive contracts in direct proportion to their levels of ESA contributions.

At its Council of Ministers meeting in Paris, France, on 6 March, ESA agreed that the principle of juste retour should not be applied after 2000.

Source: Flight International