The International Space Station is to get another laboratory with the permanent berthing of a modified multipurpose logistics module during the final Space Shuttle mission.
Above: Thales Alenia built Multi-Purpose Logistics Module Raffaello sits attached to the ISS during Shuttle mission STS-100
The Italian Space Agency (ASI) will pay for the module changes including micrometeroid protection. In return the agency is guaranteed a seat on NASA's next crew transport system and six ISS mission opportunities for its Italian astronauts. These are three short-duration missions and three six-month expeditions.
The ASI says it can "confirm that we are going to sign an agreement. One module will became a permanent element of the ISS. It will be an ASI activity with national funds co-ordinated with ESA as the main European partner of the ISS programme."
In April 2008 ASI said that NASA had rejected the idea, although Italy would pay the €22 million ($31.3 million) upgrade cost.
On 16 May 2009 NASA's ISS programme manager Michael Suffredini said that the permanent module idea was being reconsidered. He explained that to accommodate the module and a station logistics pallet the STS-133 crew is to be cut from seven to five.
With a shorter mission - partly because the module is not loaded back into the orbiter - the crew's reduced consumable needs would save 400kg (880lb) for the module and its spares.
Flightglobal.com understands the Space Shuttle programme wants STS-133 to be the final mission. NASA was not available for comment.