The Cupola is an ESA-built observatory module of the International Space Station (ISS). Once installed, it will provide ISS crew members with a direct view of robotic operations and docked spacecraft, as well as an observation point for watching the Earth. Its name derives from an architectural feature, the cupola, which it vaguely resembles.
Designed and built by the Italian contractor Alenia, it is approximately 2 metres in diameter and 1.5 metres tall. It has six side windows and a top window, all of which are equipped with shutters to protect them from damage by micrometeorites and orbital debris. It features a thermal control system, audio, video and MIL-STD-1553 bus interfaces, as well as the connections needed for installing in it one of the two identical robotic workstations that control the Canadarm2. The Cupola is expected to be launched aboard STS-132 around April 2010. It will initially be installed on the Unity Module and later be transferred to Node 3 of the space station.
Completion of the development phase was marked by an ESA ceremony at the Alenia Spazio facility in Turin, Italy on September 6, 2004. ESA will give the Cupola to NASA in exchange for the transport of five external payloads to the ISS.