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Home News The first commercial airlock is heading to the International Space Station later...

The first commercial airlock is heading to the International Space Station later this year

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Later this year, SpaceX’s Falcon 9 rocket will take off from central Florida, carrying a large metal cup destined to be attached to the outside of the International Space Station.

The airlock is the product of aerospace company Nanoracks, which helps private customers get access to space.

Up until now, the company has created smaller space-bound hardware, such as standardized research boxes that customers can use to conduct experiments in the microgravity environment of the space station.

It’s also developed its own satellite deployers that are used to shoot tiny spacecraft out into orbit — either from the ISS or from smaller free-flying spaceships.

” But this commercial airlock — called Bishop — is perhaps the most ambitious piece of hardware that Nanoracks has built yet.

Shaped like a bell jar, the metal airlock will attach to an available port on the outside of the ISS, creating a small rounded bump on the exterior of the orbiting lab.

When payloads are mounted inside Bishop, astronauts will close the port’s hatch and suck air out of the airlock through a pump.

Then, a robotic arm on the outside of the space station can grab hold of Bishop from the outside and remove it from the port, exposing the items inside to the vacuum of space.

Once any planned activities are done, the arm can place the airlock back on the port again, where Bishop latches back on and creates another airtight seal.

“It’s a lot like on a submarine when you’re going out into the water, except the difference is you’re going out into the vacuum of space,” Lewis says.

Until now, the Japanese airlock has been the only way Nanoracks has deployed its customers’ satellites into space.

And that means even more customers can get into space in a timely fashion, clearing up backlogs created by only having one airlock available for deployments.

Customers can attach deployment boxes to the inside of Bishop, with their satellites tucked inside.

Then, when the opening of the airlock is exposed to space, the deployers will shoot out their satellites, putting them in orbit around Earth.

NASA has a deal to pack trash items from the ISS inside containers, which will shoot out from the airlock into space.

One customer, a Japanese startup called GITAI, will test out its new robotic arm inside Bishop.

That way, the company can see how its technology holds up in either the vacuum of space or in a pressurized environment.

The company included adapters on the outside of Bishop so that payloads and experiments can be attached to the airlock’s exterior.

The company is currently finishing up the airlock and doing final testing, with the aim of shipping the hardware to NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida in the next two weeks.

When the Dragon reaches the ISS, the station’s robotic arm will take Bishop out of the trunk and attach it to its final parking spot.

For now, Nanoracks is simply focused on helping its customers get their payloads into space as quickly as possible, which is why they created Bishop in the first place.