MOSCOW, February 21. /TASS/. Russia’s Khrunichev Space Center has built a Proton-M carrier rocket to deliver the Nauka (Science) multi-functional laboratory module to the International Space Station (ISS), Head of the State Space Corporation Roscosmos Dmitry Rogozin said on Friday.
"The Proton for this launch has already been built and I am confident that the multi-functional laboratory module will fly [to the International Space Station]," Rogozin said at the 11th international conference of the Russian Association of Aviation and Space Insurers.
The Roscosmos chief confirmed that the module was expected to be sent to the Baikonur spaceport on March 19 this year. Earlier, Khrunichev Space Center Chief Alexei Varochko also mentioned this date.
The launch of the Nauka research module to the orbital outpost is expected in late 2020 - early 2021. The module’s construction began in 1995. Russia initially planned to launch the Nauka lab to the ISS as a back-up of the Zarya compartment (the station’s first module that continues its flight as part of the orbital outpost) but the launch was numerously delayed. In 2013, the Nauka module was sent to the Khrunichev Space Center after metal chips were found in its fuel system.
The Nauka multi-functional laboratory module can generate oxygen for six people and regenerate water from the urine. The Nauka will provide a second toilet for Russian cosmonauts (the first is located in the Zvezda module) and a room for the third crewmember. It will also use the European Robotic Arm (ERA) that will help perform some operations without spacewalks.