International Space Station

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International Space Station

International Space Station photographed following
separation from the Space Shuttle Atlantis, October 16, 2002

Missing image

International Space Station insignia

ISS Statistics
Crew: 2 As of
June 17, 2005
Perigee: 347.9 km "
Apogee: 354.1 km "
Orbital period: 91.55 minutes "
Inclination: 51.64 degrees "
Orbits per day: 15.73 "
Mean altitude
loss per day:
~65 m "
Days in orbit since
Zarya launch:
2,401 As of
June 17, 2005
Days occupied since
Expedition 1 boarded
on November 2, 2000:
1,688 As of
June 17, 2005
Revolutions since
Zarya launch:
37,573 As of
June 17, 2005
Distance traveled since
Zarya launch:
~1,400,000,000 km "
Average speed: 7.69 km/s 27,685.7 km/h
Current mass: 183,283 kg As of
January 26, 2005
Propellant mass: ~ 3,951 kg "
Current living volume: 425 m³ "
Pressure ~ 757 mmHg (100 kPa) .
Oxygen ~ 162.4 mmHg (22 kPa) .
CO2 ~ 4.8 mmHg (640 Pa).
Temperature ~ 26.9 C .
Current ISS Elements
Element:Launched:Mass: (kg)
Zarya FGB: November 20,1998 19,323
Unity - Node 1: December 4,1998 11,612
Zvezda Service Module: July 12,2000 19,050
Z1 Truss: October 11,2000 8,755
P6 Truss - Solar Array: November 30,2000 15,900
Destiny Laboratory: February 7,2001 14,515
Canadarm2: April 19,2001 4,899
Quest Joint Airlock: July 12,2001 6,064
Pirs Airlock -
Docking Compartment
August 14, 2001 3,900
S0 Truss: April 8, 2002 13,970
Mobile Base for
June 5, 2002 1,450
S1 Truss: October 7, 2002 12,598
P1 Truss: November 23, 2002 12,598
International Space Station
Missing image
ISS elements (NASA)

International Space Station elements as of 23-July-2004.
Click to enlarge.

ISS Diagram

The International Space Station (ISS) is a joint project of 6 space agencies: the U.S.' National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA), Russian Federal Space Agency, Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA), Canadian Space Agency (CSA/ASC), Brazilian Space Agency (Agncia Espacial Brasileira) (AEB) and the European Space Agency (ESA).

The space station is located in orbit around the Earth at an altitude of approximately 360 km, a type of orbit usually termed low Earth orbit. (The actual height varies over time by several kilometres due to atmospheric drag and reboosts. The station, on average, loses 100 meters of altitude per day.) It orbits Earth at a period of about 92 minutes; on December 1, 2003 it had completed over 33,500 orbits since launch.

In many ways the ISS represents a merger of previously planned independent space stations, especially Russia's Mir 2, United States' Space Station Freedom and the planned European Columbus, representing a permanent human presence in space: it has been manned with a crew of at least two since November 2, 2000. Each time that the crew is replaced both the old and the new crew as well as one or more visitors are present.

It is serviced primarily by the Space Shuttle, and Soyuz and Progress spacecraft units. It is still being built, but is home to some experimentation already. At present, the station has a capacity for a crew of three. So far, all members of the (permanent) crew have come from the Russian or United States space programs. The ISS has however been visited by many more astronauts, a number of them from other countries (and by 2 space tourists).

The name "International Space Station" (abbreviated MKS in Russian) represents a neutral compromise ending a disagreement about a proper name for the station. The initially proposed name "Space Station Alpha" was rejected by Russia, since it would have implied that the station was something fundamentally new, whereas the Soviet Union already had operated eight orbital stations long before the ISS launch (see Space station). The Russian proposal to name the space station "Atlant" was in turn rejected by the US, which was worried about that name's similarity to "Atlantis", the name of a legendary continent that sank into the ocean. The use of "Atlantis" would also have caused confusion with the US shuttle Atlantis.


Building the ISS

Building the ISS will require more than 50 assembly and utilization flights. Of these flights, 39 are Space Shuttle flights. In addition to the assembly and utilization flights, approximately 30 Progress spacecraft flights are required to provide logistics. When assembly is complete, the ISS will have a pressurized volume of 1,200 cubic meters, a mass of 419,000 kilograms, 110 kilowatts of power output, a truss 108.4 meters long, modules 74 meters long, and a crew of six.

The station consists of several modules and elements:

Already launched - (in order of assembly)

Launched on periodic resupply missions

Scheduled for launch by Shuttle after return to flight
(listed in order of planned launch sequence)

Scheduled for launch by Proton rocket

Elements delayed, on hold or cancelled

Other major subsystems include

ISS major component assembly sequence

As configured as of 2003, the station massed 187,016 kg and had 425 cubic meters of living space. Its extreme dimensions were 73 meters wide, 52 meters long, and 27.5 meters high. Operations had included 16 American Space Shuttle flights and 22 Russian flights. Of the Russian flights, 8 were manned and 14 were unmanned flights. Construction had required 51 spacewalks, of which 25 were shuttle-based and 26 ISS-based. Total spacewalk time at the station has been 318 hours, 37 minutes.

On December 1, 1987, NASA announced the names of four U.S. companies who were awarded contracts to help manufacture the US-built parts of the Space Station: Boeing Aerospace, General Electric's Astro-Space Division, McDonnell Douglas, and the Rocketdyne Division of Rockwell.

Missing image
Cosmonaut Sergei Krikalev inside the Zvezda Service Module, November 2000

The first section was put in orbit in 1998. Two further pieces were added before the first crew was sent. The first crew arrived on November 2, 2000 and consisted of US astronaut William Shepherd and two Russian cosmonauts, Yuri Gidzenko and Sergei Krikalev. They decided to call the space station "Alpha" but the use of that name was restricted to their mission.

The ISS has had a troubled history. Initially planned as a NASA "Space Station Freedom" and promoted by President Reagan, it was found to be too expensive. After the end of the Cold War, it was taken up again as a joint project of NASA and Russia's Rosaviakosmos. Since then, it has been far more expensive than originally anticipated by NASA, and is behind schedule. As of 2003 it is unable to yet accommodate the expected crew of seven, thus severely limiting the amount of science that can be performed on it and angering European partners in the project. In July, 2004, NASA agreed to complete the station to the level where it could support 4 crewmembers and to launch additional sections like the Japanese experiment module. NASA would continue to handle construction while Russia would continue to launch and recover the Station's crews.

Purpose of the ISS

There are many critics of NASA who view the project as a waste of time and money, inhibiting progress on more useful projects: for instance, the estimated $100 billion USD lifetime cost could pay for dozens of unmanned scientific missions. There are many critics of space exploration in general, who argue that the $100 billion USD would be better spent on problems on Earth.

Advocates of space exploration hold that such criticisms are at the very least short-sighted, and perhaps deceptive. Advocates of manned space research and exploration claim that these efforts have indeed produced billions of dollars of tangible benefits to people on Earth. In some estimates, it has been held that the indirect economic benefit, made from commercialization of technologies developed during manned space exploration, has returned more than seven times the initial investment to the economy (some conservative estimates put the amount at three times the initial investment). Whether the ISS, as distinct from the wider space program, will be a major contributor in this sense is, however, a subject of strong debate.

The ISS has seen the first space tourist, Dennis Tito, who spent 20 million USD to fly aboard a Russian supply mission and the first space wedding when Yuri Malenchenko on the station married Ekaterina Dmitriev who was in Texas.

Present status of the ISS

After the accident of the Space Shuttle Columbia on February 1, 2003, and the subsequent suspension of the US Space Shuttle program, there remains some uncertainty over the future of the ISS. Its construction is practically halted as major parts of the ISS are so heavy that they cannot be lifted to the ISS by any launcher currently in service. For example the European Space Agency's laboratory module Columbus is ready to go, but can't be delivered into orbit by currently available launchers. In the meantime, crew exchange is done using the Russian Soyuz spacecraft. Starting with Soyuz TMA-2, two-astronaut caretaker crews have been launched, instead of the previous crews of three.

However, the Soyuz lacks the raw cargo space of the shuttle, and because the ISS has not been serviced by a shuttle for an extended period, it has built up a large amount of trash and waste which is starting to hinder station operations.

The grounding of the US space shuttles has caused many to wonder aloud whether or not the Russian Energia launcher or Buran shuttle could have been brought back into service. However, while as romantic as dreams that the Saturn V might fly once more, the reality of the situation is that all the equipment for Energia and Buran, including the vehicles themselves, have either rotted away or been repurposed since falling into disuse with the collapse of the Soviet Union.

Astronaut Michael Foale on a construction EVA outside the ISS in February 2004
Astronaut Michael Foale on a construction EVA outside the ISS in February 2004

On 27 February 2004, ISS crew Michael Foale and Alexander Kalery conducted the first spacewalk involving its entire crew (Soyuz 26 was the first involving the whole crew of a vehicle). Most of the spacewalk's goals, the installation of external equipment, were accomplished before a kinked tube in Kalery's suit caused a cooling malfunction and forced an early end.

The possibility of an extremely high-speed collision with space debris is considered a long-term threat to the International Space Station. One solution which has been proposed by NASA and others is a laser broom. There are concerns that such a proposal might contravene existing treaties banning laser weapons in space.

ISS Expeditions

Expedition Crew Launch
Flight up Landing
Flight down Duration
Expedition 1 William Shepherd - Cdr. U.S.A.
Yuri Gidzenko - Russia
Sergei Krikalev - Russia
October 31, 2000
07:52:47 UTC
Soyuz TM-31 March 21, 2001
07:33:06 UTC
STS-102 140.98
Expedition 2 Yuri Usachev - Cdr. Russia
Susan Helms - U.S.A.
James Voss - U.S.A.
March 8, 2001
11:42:09 UTC
STS-102 August 22, 2001
19:24:06 UTC
STS-105 167.28
Expedition 3 Frank L. Culbertson - Cdr. U.S.A.
Vladimir N. Dezhurov - Russia
Mikhail Tyurin - Russia
August 10, 2001
21:10:15 UTC
STS-105 December 17, 2001
17:56:13 UTC
STS-108 128.86
Expedition 4 Yury Onufrienko - Cdr. Russia
Dan Bursch - U.S.A.
Carl Walz - U.S.A.
December 5, 2001
22:19:28 UTC
STS-108 June 19, 2002
09:57:41 UTC
STS-111 195.82
Expedition 5 Valery Korzun - Cdr. Russia
Sergei Treschev - Russia
Peggy Whitson - U.S.A.
June 5, 2002
21:22:49 UTC
STS-111 December 7, 2002
19:37:12 UTC
STS-113 184.93
Expedition 6 Kenneth Bowersox - Cdr. U.S.A
Nikolai Budarin - Russia
Donald Pettit - U.S.A.
November 24, 2002
00:49:47 UTC
STS-113 May 4, 2003
02:04:25 UTC
Soyuz TMA-1 161.05
Expedition 7 Yuri Malenchenko - Cdr. Russia
Edward Lu - U.S.A.
April 26, 2003
03:53:52 UTC
Soyuz TMA-2 October 28, 2003
02:40:20 UTC
Soyuz TMA-2 184.93
Expedition 8 Michael Foale - Cdr. U.S.A.
Alexander Kaleri - Russia
October 18, 2003
05:38:03 UTC
Soyuz TMA-3 April 30, 2004
00:11:15 UTC
Soyuz TMA-3 194.77
Expedition 9 Gennady Padalka - Cdr. Russia
Michael Fincke - U.S.A.
April 19, 2004
03:19:00 UTC
Soyuz TMA-4 October 24, 2004
00:32:00 UTC
Soyuz TMA-4 185.66
Expedition 10 Leroy Chiao - Cdr. U.S.A.
Salizhan Sharipov - Russia
October 14, 2004
03:06 UTC
Soyuz TMA-5 April 24, 2005
22:08:00 UTC
Soyuz TMA-5 192.79
Expedition 11 Sergei Krikalev - Cdr. Russia
John L. Phillips - U.S.A.
April 15, 2005
00:46:00 UTC
Soyuz TMA-6 (Krikalev, Phillips);
STS-121 (Thomas Reiter)
Planned: October 15, 2005
00:00:00 UTC
Soyuz TMA-6 ~190

Future expeditions

The International Space Station is the second most visited space craft in the history of space flight. As of April 15, 2005 it has had 133 visitors. Mir had 137 visitors. See Space station. Almost 1/4 of astronauts who have ever flown into space have been to the ISS. See the alphabetical List of International Space Station visitors.

ISS spacewalks

List of ISS spacewalks performed from the ISS or visiting spacecraft.

Visiting manned spacecraft and crews

Please see List of manned spaceflights to the ISS for a comprehensive chronological list of all manned spacecraft that have visited the ISS, including the spacecraft's respective crews. This list also includes the ISS' crews referenced in the previous section.

Visiting unmanned spacecraft

List of unmanned spaceflights to the ISS. Progress supply flights and unmanned automatic docking space station modules.


External links

See also


Previous Russian Space Station:
International Space Station Previous U.S. Space Station:

Template:US manned space programs

Template:Russian manned space programsca:Estaci Espacial Internacional da:Den Internationale Rumstation de:Internationale Raumstation ISS es:Estacin Espacial Internacional fi:Kansainvlinen avaruusasema fr:Station spatiale internationale id:Stasiun Luar Angkasa Internasional it:Stazione Spaziale Internazionale ja:国際宇宙ステーション nl:Internationaal ruimtestation ISS no:Den internasjonale romstasjonen pl:Międzynarodowa Stacja Kosmiczna pt:Estao Espacial Internacional ru:Международная космическая станция sv:ISS


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