ASI - Agenzia Spaziale Italiana - Mission and Projects ASI - Agenzia Spaziale Italiana - Mission and Projects

Node 2

Interconnecting element between the ISS laboratories

The European-built Node 2 is one of the three International Space Station Nodes. The Nodes are the interconnecting elements between the various pressurised modules on the ISS.

They provide a shirtsleeve environment to allow the passage of astronauts and equipment through to other Station elements and provide vital functions and resources for the astronauts and equipment, both inside Node 2 itself and inside the laboratories and modules attached to it.

The on-orbit resources that Node 2 will provide include the distribution of electrical power and thermal and environmental control. Node 2 also provides a working base point for the Space Station’s robotic arm.



Node 2 consists of a pressurised cylindrical hull 4.6 metres in diameter with a shallow conical section enclosing each end. It is just over 7 metres long and weighs around 14 tonnes at launch. The pressurised shell of Node 2 is constructed from aluminium alloys. This is covered with a multi-layer insulation blanket for thermal stability and a further 98 sections of panelling to act as a protective shield against bombardment from space debris.

This panelling is also constructed of an aluminium alloy together with a layer of Kevlar and Nextel. Heat exchangers between the external panels and the pressurised shell of Node 2 help to disperse excess heat from its internal equipment and attached modules.


Node 2 can be considered in two halves. One half, with a single docking port where Node 2 docks with the ISS accommodates eight standard-sized racks, four of which will house relevant systems, the other four of which can be used for either stowage or crew quarters.

The other half consists of an additional five docking ports one located on the other end section or cone and four arranged around the circumference of the cylindrical main body of Node 2. The docking mechanism on the end section will have a pressurised mating adaptor attached to it to act as the principal docking port for the Space Shuttle.

On the cylindrical main section of Node 2, two of the docking ports will be used to accommodate the attachment of two permanent laboratories: the European Columbus laboratory, and the Japanese Experiment Module 'Kibo'. A third port will accommodate one of either the European-built Multi-Purpose Logistics Modules (MPLMs), logistics modules, which travel in the Shuttle's cargo bay, or the Japanese H-II Transfer Vehicle (HTV) a logistic supply craft similar to the European Automated Transfer Vehicle (ATV).

The fourth docking port on the main body of Node 2 has no permanent assignment though can be used as a backup port since the docking mechanism on a majority of the ports is the same.

Node 2 has systems, which provide many different functions and resources to the attached laboratories and modules, and to itself, for maintaining a safe and ideal working and living environment onboard the ISS. These systems manage:

  • distribution and control of electrical power
  • thermal control for removal of excess heat from equipment
  • environmental control (temperature regulation, ventilation and humidity)
  • pressure regulation and signalling depressurisation
  • detection and extinguishing of fire
  • sampling of the atmosphere, and treatment of the Station's condensed and recycled water
  • data handling
  • audio/video distribution

Node 2 also has support equipment for internal and spacewalk operations.

Two of the three ISS Nodes (Node 2 and Node 3) were made under a contract in Europe, while Node 1, which has been in orbit since December 1998 was made under a NASA contract in the USA. 

Nodes 2 and 3 are an evolution of Node 1. ASI and prime contractor Thales Alenia Space put forward a design for Nodes 2 and 3, deriving from the experience with the MPLMs, that took into account new habitability requirements, making possible permanent crew quarters for four astronauts with the capability to treat and recycle water, cater for personal hygiene and waste, jettison carbon dioxide and generate oxygen.