Bishop Airlock Module


Bishop Airlock Module
Nanoracks airlock in SSPF.jpg
The Nanoracks Bishop Airlock Module being manufactured in the Space Station Processing Facility
Module statistics
Launch dateNET 2 December 2020
Launch vehicleSpaceX CRS-21
DockedNode 3 Port
Mass1,059 kilograms (2,335 lb)
Height1.8 metres (5 ft 11 in)
Diameter2.014 metres (6 ft 7.3 in)
Pressurised volume3.99 cubic metres (141 cu ft)
References: [1][2]

The Nanoracks Bishop Airlock Module is a commercially-funded airlock module intended to be launched to the International Space Station on SpaceX CRS-21 in December 2020.[3][4] The module is being built by NanoRacks, Thales Alenia Space, and Boeing.[5] It will be used to deploy CubeSats, small satellites, and other external payloads for NASA, CASIS, and other commercial and governmental customers.[6] The name refers to the bishop chess piece, which moves diagonally.[7]


Under the International Space Station's designation as a facility of the Center for the Advancement of Science in Space, Nanoracks has an agreement with NASA to send payloads from academic and private sources for installation on the ISS' experiment racks or deployment from the equipment airlock in the Japanese Kibo module. Limitations on NASA's use of the JAXA facility created a bottleneck, prompting Nanoracks to develop their own airlock to increase satellite deployment capabilities.[8]

A Space Act Agreement between NASA and Nanoracks to develop a private airlock was signed in May 2016,[9] and the Nanoracks–Boeing plan to build and launch the module by 2019 was approved in February 2017.[6] Originally manifested to launch on SpaceX CRS-19 in late 2019,[10] the module was later re-manifested to launch on SpaceX CRS-21.[3]


The Bishop Airlock Module is primarly manufactured by Nanoracks, with parts of the titanium and aluminium pressure shell made by Thales Alenia group at their factory in Turin, Italy. Boeing manufactured the stainless steel exterior panels and the berthing mechanism. The airlock is currently undergoing last stages of manufacture and testing in the Space Station Processing Facility at Kennedy Space Center.[11][12]


The airlock is a four-cubic meter bell-shaped canister that attaches to the Tranquility module.[13] It does not have hatches, instead the Canadarm2 connects to either of the two grapple fixtures in order to move the airlock on or off the station's berthing port which does have a hatch.

The second grapple fixture allows the airlock and its contents to be carried along the main truss on the Mobile Base System.


  1. ^
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  3. ^ a b "Thales Alenia Space reaches key milestone for NanoRacks' airlock module". Thales Alenia Space (Press release). 20 March 2019. Retrieved 22 August 2019.
  4. ^ Clark, Stephen (2 August 2019). "SpaceX to begin flights under new cargo resupply contract next year". Spaceflight Now. Retrieved 22 August 2019.
  5. ^ "NanoRacks, Boeing to Build First Commercial ISS Airlock Module". NanoRacks. 6 February 2017. Retrieved 22 August 2019.
  6. ^ a b Garcia, Mark (6 February 2017). "Progress Underway for First Commercial Airlock on Space Station". NASA. Retrieved 22 August 2019.
  7. ^ "NanoRacks, commercial space industry march ahead with space station airlock". August 28, 2019.
  8. ^ Berger, Eric (27 January 2016). "To boost commercial activity, NASA may add private airlock to ISS". Ars Technica. Retrieved 22 August 2019.
  9. ^ "Nanoracks, Boeing to Build First Commercial ISS Airlock Module". Nanoracks. 6 February 2017. Retrieved 22 August 2019.
  10. ^ "Nanoracks Commercial Space Station Airlock 'Bishop' Completes Critical Design Review, Moves to Fabrication". Nanoracks. 17 April 2018. Retrieved 22 August 2019.
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  13. ^ pg 12