Spaceflight Insider

Fabrication for commercial ISS airlock ‘Bishop’ underway

The commercial Bishop airlock will be attached to the Tranquility module on the ISS. Image Credit: NanoRacks

The commercial Bishop airlock will be attached to the Tranquility module on the ISS. Image Credit: NanoRacks

Houston-based NanoRacks recently announced that its airlock module named “Bishop” completed its critical design review, allowing engineers to begin building the commercial airlock, which is bound for the International Space Station.

Building Bishop will be France-based Thales Alenia Space. The company is set to build the pressure shell for the airlock as well as secondary structures such as the micrometeoroid debris shield, multi-layer insulation panels, a power and data grapple fixture support structure and other structural components, NanoRacks said.

However, other features, such as the passive common berthing mechanism (CBM) that will be used to connect the airlock to the port-facing active CBM on the Tranquility module, will be built by Boeing. NanoRacks said that has been in production for over a year and will be delivered to Thales Alenia Space in May 2018 to be installed on the pressure shell.

“I’m very proud of the NanoRacks engineering team and our partner, ATA Engineering, who performs the structural and thermal analysis for Bishop,” said Airlock Project Manager Brock Howe in a NanoRacks press release. “This is a crucial milestone that required many long hours, and the team has been working together very smoothly. We’re also very appreciative of our relationship with NASA and the International Space Station Program Office, as they have provided guidance and expertise in several critical areas. As always, there is plenty of work still to do – and we will continue to push forward.”

NanoRacks said that as of April 2018, it has launched over 600 payloads to the International Space Station via various cargo freighters, including SpaceX’s Dragon capsule and Orbital ATK’s Cygnus spacecraft. To deploy them, astronauts place the CubeSats, which are in a dispenser, onto a slide table in the Japanese Kibo module’s equipment airlock. The Japanese robotic arm then moves the dispenser to the proper orientation for release.

At 6.6 feet (2 meters) wide and 5.9 feet (1.8 meters) long, the company said Bishop will offer five times the satellite deployment volume that is currently available on the outpost.

The next major milestone for the commercial airlock is the Phase II Safety Review, NanoRacks said, which is scheduled for June 2018. The company said Bishop is on track to launch to the ISS via SpaceX’s CRS-19 Dragon capsule in late 2019.




Heather Smith's fascination for space exploration – started at the tender age of twelve while she was on a sixth-grade field trip in Kenner, Louisiana, walking through a mock-up of the International Space Station and seeing the “space potty” (her terminology has progressed considerably since that time) – she realized at this point that her future lay in the stars. Smith has come to realize that very few people have noticed how much spaceflight technology has improved their lives. She has since dedicated herself to correcting this problem. Inspired by such classic literature as Anne Frank’s Diary, she has honed her writing skills and has signed on as The Spaceflight Group’s coordinator for the organization’s social media efforts.

Reader Comments

Is it named after the chess piece or that AI robot from the 1986 sci-fi movie “Aliens”? It’s ironic that NASA’s Lunar Orbital Platform ‘Gateway’ is also the name of the space station in “Aliens”.

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