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Paul in Brookline

"Cupola" is not the name of a module - that piece of hardware is CALLED the cupola, and it has been part the Space Station design since the Phase B studies in the '80s. There were to be cupola's on the + and - z ports of two nodes. They are intended to provide direct viewing in support of Station or Shuttle RMS ops, EVA and (originally) OMV prox-ops. The name comes from architecture - cupolas are common features of barns, old houses, churches and municipal buildings. We never considered the cupola a module and, in fact, in the SSF design, it was launched already mounted on the node (on flight MB-5).

On the other topic - yes, large windows are a HUGE issue in S/C design. They add weight, complexity and risk in a conventional aluminum structure, and I expect are even more challenging in an inflatable module.

The window in the US Lab module was not put there for sightseeing. It is made of UV-transparent quartz (or at least it still was when I left the program) to support remote sensing and solar science. It also has a history that illustrates the nature of government contracting -

during one of the periodic Space Station Freedom budget scrubs, NASA proposed deleting the window. Within a few days, this raised loud protests from the scientific community. We also found that Boeing projected that the cost saving would be minimal (IIRC, about $1M). NASA then reversed the decision. Boeing then asked for (IIRC) $10 - 15M to "add" the window back. Keep in mind that this was before CDR and no drawing changes could have been made in the few days that had elapsed.

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