NASA is to use a back-up node module as the basis for the replacement US Propulsion Module for the International Space Station (ISS). The original module was being built by Boeing, but was cancelled after it went over budget.

The $450 million Node X approach will comprise a module similar to the Unity node attached to the ISS. Mounted on either side will be two 12,000kg (26,400lb) tanks containing propellants for the thrusters to help maintain the orbit of the station. The tanks will be attached and replaced during Space Shuttle supply missions.

The Node X module will be launched in 2004 and attached to the European Space Agency's Columbus Orbital Facility. The central Node X module, however, will still be usable as a connecting port or passageway for the crew.

Meanwhile, NASA has signed a commercial biotechnology agreement to encourage private medical research using the ISS. The agency has licensed its bioreactor technology to StelSys of Baltimore for $400,000. The bioreactor will be used to advance research into the treatment of infectious diseases.

n Two of the eight batteries aboard the Russian Zvezda service module of the ISS are not operating properly. Replacement equipment will be sent to the station aboard a Progress tanker in November.

Source: Flight International