The International Space Station is under way. The newest star in the night sky will continue to grow bright, demonstrating to the world that nations can work together on peaceful initiatives that will benefit the entire global population. -- NASA
International Space Station
Turning Science Fiction Into Science Fact
The creation and assembly of the International Space
Station clearly demonstrates U.S. leadership of the global community,
lighting the pathway for peaceful cooperation between nations in the
21st century. The largest international scientific and technological
endeavor ever undertaken is taking shape 220 miles above the Earth. With
the Space Station, a permanent laboratory is being established in a
realm where gravity, temperature and pressure can be manipulated to
achieve a variety of scientific and engineering pursuits that are
impossible in ground-based laboratories. The Space Station will be a
test bed for the technologies of the future and a laboratory for
research on new, advanced industrial materials, communications
technology, medical research and much more. On-orbit assembly has begun.
A new star has appeared in the night sky, and it grows brighter as each
international contribution is delivered to space.
The completed International Space Station will be a
permanent orbiting laboratory in space capable of performing
long-duration research in the unique environment of Earth's orbit. The
Space Station will:
sustain U.S. leadership of the global community
provide a platform for advances in science and technology
meet the deep-seated need of men and women throughout history to
explore the unknown
enhance U.S. economic competitiveness and create new commercial
serve as a virtual classroom in space to the benefit of
educators and students alike
Aboard this international orbiting laboratory, a broad
range of research will take place. Astronauts from many nations will:
perform fundamental medical research, which could potentially
benefit all humankind
develop new materials and processes to benefit industries on
accelerate breakthroughs in technology and engineering that will
have immediate, practical applications for life on Earth and will
create jobs and economic opportunities worldwide.
On-orbit assembly of the Space Station began Nov. 20,
1998, with the launch of the Russian-built Zarya (Sunrise) control
module and will be complete in the 2005-2006 timeframe. The space
station orbits the Earth at an inclination of 51.6 degrees to the
equator. This orbit has two advantages:
It can be reached by the launch vehicles of all the
international partners, providing a robust capability for the
delivery of crews and supplies to the Station.
It provides excellent Earth observation with coverage of 85
percent of the globe and over flight of 95 percent of the planet's
When complete, the Space Station will be 356 feet across
and 290 feet long. It will weigh about a million pounds and will be able
to house up to seven astronauts at one time.
The Shuttle-Mir Program
In preparation for the assembly and operation of the
International Space Station, NASA and the Russian Space Agency entered
into a cooperative program using the U.S. Space Shuttle and the Russian
space station Mir. The main objectives for this international venture
Learn to work with Russia to overcome cultural difference.
Reduce International Space Station construction and operations
risks by testing designs and procedures
Gain operation experience with long-duration missions
When the Shuttle-Mir program ended in May 1998, the
United States had continuous presence on Mir for almost 27 months.
American astronauts who served a tour on Mir were Norm Thagard, Shannon
Lucid, John Blaha, Jerry Linenger, Michael Foale, David Wolf and Andy
Shuttle-Mir Results The Shuttle-Mir program provided the United States with the
opportunity to conduct experiments in microgravity for periods of time
far exceeding the two-week maximum of Space Shuttle flights. The flight
of seven American astronauts and more than 140 experiments on Mir were
an important step in preparing for Space Station assembly and research.
The Shuttle-Mir science results include:
Microgravity Science—Used cutting-edge technology to increase
dramatically the number of protein crystals grown. Allowed for the
significant expansion of in-flight tissue culture experiments from
weeks to months. Benefited medical research on Earth with
Life Sciences—Collected significant data regarding human
response to long-duration exposure to the microgravity environment
("weightlessness"). Discovered that bone loss does not
lessen over time (1.2 percent of bone mass in the lower hip and
spine is lost per month in microgravity).
Plant Growth—Discovered that seeds from plants grown in space
could be planted and seeds harvested, demonstrating that
self-sufficiency for extended life sustenance in space is
Day-to-day experience in space operations on Mir made
clear to engineers that the design of certain areas of the International
Space Station needed improvement. For example:
Analysis of the events following the Mir fire resulted in a
modification to the station's software so that all intermodule
ventilation can be shut off with a single command.
Mir rendezvous and docking demonstrated that the planned use of
the Shuttle "star trackers" requires the addition of
Space Station track lighting.
The Development, Assembly, and Operations of the
International Space Station
Creation of the International Space Station is underway.
Much of the U.S. hardware scheduled to launch in the next two years is
at the launch site at the Kennedy Space Center, FL, where it will
undergo integration testing prior to launch. Continuing progress is
being made on space station research, planning and facility development.
U.S. hardware deliveries include research racks scheduled for launch in
It will take more than 90 U.S. and Russian space
missions and more than a thousand hours of spacewalks to assemble the
Space Station in orbit and maintain it through assembly complete.
The first element, the control module Zarya (Sunrise), is a
20-ton, 43-foot-long module that contains propulsion, command, and
control systems. It was built for NASA by the Russian corporation
Krunichev, and it was launched on a Proton rocket from the
Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakstan on Nov. 20, 1998.
Node-1, The first U.S. pressurized module of the Space Station,
named Unity, was built at Marshall Space Flight Center and
outfitted at Kennedy Space Center. It was launched from Kennedy on
December 4, 1998, and was successfully joined to Zarya in space
during Space Shuttle mission STS-88.
In May 1999, an international crew of seven became the first
visitors to the station on Space Shuttle mission STS-96. As part
of this first logisitcs mission, the crew outfitted the
International Space Station for the arrival of its early living
quarters and laid out a welcome mat for the first station crew.
Space Shuttle Discovery carried more than 3,600 pounds of supplies
to be stored aboard the station, ranging from food and clothes for
the first crew to laptop computers, a printer and cameras.
Upcoming Space Station assembly missions include:
Control Module Maintenance: A seven-member crew aboard Space
Shuttle Atlantis will swap out batteries on the Zarya control
module and take care of other lifetime issues, as part of STS-101.
Service Module: The Russian Service Module named Zvezda (Star)will
be launched from Khazakstan aboard Russian proton rocket and
remotely docked to the station. The Service Module will serve as
an early station living quarters and provide life support system
functions to early station elements. It also serves as the primary
docking port for Russian cargo resupply vehicles and provides
reboost and attitude control capabilities.
Service Module Outfitting: During Shuttle mission STS-106, Space
Shuttle Atlantis will carry logistics and supply cargo for
outfitting the Service Module. It will also carry the Russian
Strela crane telescopic boom to be attached to the station's
exterior and used for future station assembly. The astronaut crew
will perform orbital checkout and setup of the Service Module.
Truss Structure: As part of STS-92, the Space Shuttle Discovery
will carry part of the integrated truss structure to the station.
This framework, the backbone of the International Space Station,
will allow for the installation of the first solar arrays for
early power to the station. In addition, the mission will install
a Ku-band communications system, control moment gyros, which will
provide electrically powered attitude control, and a docking port
that will be used during solar array installation.
First Crew: A Russian Soyuz rocket will carry the first
international crew of three, comprised of Commander Bill Shepherd,
Soyuz Commander Yuri Gidzenko and Flight Engineer Sergei Krikalev.
This will mark the beginning of permanent human presence aboard
the station. The Soyuz spacecraft will dock with the station,
providing emergency crew return capability. The crew will remain
on the station for about three months.
First Solar Power: During STS-97 the Space Shuttle Endeavour
will provide the first solar arrays and batteries, as well as
cooling systems. Also the S-band communications system will be
activated for voice and telemetry.
Countries participating in the International Space
Station program are Canada, Japan, Brazil, Russia, and 11 nations of the
European Space Agency. Highlights of the partners' contributions
NASA, the U.S. space agency, is the initiator, integrator and
leader of the International Space Station effort. U.S. hardware
contributions include the truss structures that provide the
station's framework, four pairs of large solar arrays, three nodes
with ports for spacecraft and for passage to other ISS elements,
and an airlock that accommodates U.S. and Russian space suits.
NASA is also providing the U.S. laboratory, and habitation and
centrifuge accommodation modules. In addition, NASA will provide
power, communications and data services, thermal control,
environmental control and life support, and crew health
maintenance. NASA is also developing the X-38, a prototype for a
future crew return vehicle for the station.
Russia is providing about a third of the mass of the Space
Station, including research modules, a service module with its own
life support and habitation systems and a science power platform
that supplies about 20 kilowatts of electrical power. They also
are providing logistics transport using Progress vehicles and
Soyuz spacecraft crew rotation . In addition, the Mission Control
Center in Moscow will provide primary command and control the
Space Station until the U.S. Lab is docked on mission 5A.
The European Space Agency is providing the Columbus Orbital
Facility, which includes pressurized laboratory and external
payload accommodations. The space agency also is providing
logistics transport vehicles to be launched on the Ariane V launch
Canada is providing the Mobile Servicing System which includes a
55-foot-long robotic arm along with a smaller manipulator
attachment, to be used for assembly and maintenance tasks on the
Space Station, as well as a Mobile Remote Servicer Base, which
allows the robotic arm to travel along the truss.
Japan is providing an on-orbit faculty named Kibo that includes
a pressurized laboratory, a Logistics Module, and an attached
facility exposed to the vacuum of space serviced by a robotic arm
Japan is also providing logisitic resupply using the HII launch
Brazil is providing a pallet to house external payloads,
unpressurized logistics carriers, and an Earth observation
Future Activities: Science Operations and
The Space Station will provide scientists the electric
power and laboratory space on orbit to conduct the research that could
contribute to safe, long-term space exploration by human beings. The
knowledge gained will also benefit research on Earth in many fields.
Areas of research currently planned for the International Space Station
include biotechnology, materials science, combustion science,
gravitational biology, advanced human life support, Earth observation,
space science, physics, and engineering research and technology. The
list is endless.
Research activities will begin during the assembly
process, with many initial research capabilities available in 2000.
Also, NASA has recently completed a Commercial Development Plan that
will provide a framework for allowing private companies to conduct
research on the station. In addition, NASA is reviewing the possibility
of forming a non-governmental organization to manage utilization of the
station and commercial development.
The International Space Station is under way. The newest
star in the night sky will continue to grow bright, demonstrating to the
world that nations can work together on peaceful initiatives that will
benefit the entire global population.
Responsible NASA Official: Mary F. Bell- Comments Web Page Curator: SAIC Information Services
Marshall Space Flight
Center's Role in Development and Operations of the
International Space Station
Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Ala., is playing a primary
role in NASA's development and operations of the International Space
Station. From manufacturing and testing facilities, to preparing for
ongoing Space Station payload operations and microgravity research,
Marshall is making significant contributions to the Space Station
The Unity connecting
node, Destiny laboratory module and the Space Station’s Airlock
module were manufactured by the Boeing Co. at on-site facilities
provided by the Marshall Center.
Marshall provides all
preflight dynamic and structural testing of U.S. Space Station elements
and thorough qualification testing of Space Station components.
The Center also supervised
the design of the multipurpose logistics module built by the Italian
Space Agency. The module is a reusable logistics carrier that will be
the primary delivery system to resupply and return Space Station cargo
that requires a pressurized environment.
oversees the design, development and testing of two International Space
Station docking modules, or ports, being built by the European Space
Marshall is responsible for
developing water recycling and oxygen generating systems for the Space
Station -- systems that will eliminate the need to resupply thousands of
pounds of water and oxygen for the Station crew each year. In a
specialized facility at Marshall, researchers conduct exhaustive tests
simulating air conditioning, atmospheric pressure, and air and water
purification functions aboard the Station. All reclamation and
purification equipment is thoroughly tested for performance, hardware
life, maintenance planning and troubleshooting.
To allow commercial and
university scientists to quickly, easily and affordably get their
experiments onto the Space Station, engineers at Marshall have designed
and built the EXPRESS rack -- a standardized payload rack that will
transport and house experiments.
An EXPRESS Pallet,
developed by NASA’s Brazilian partners and managed by Marshall, will
carry payloads that will attach to the Space Station hardware on orbit.
Marshall is home to the
Payload Operations Center, which is responsible for Space Station
payload planning, data management, operations control and overall
integration and management of science payloads and experimentation.
The Telescience Resource
Kit, or TReK, is a computer software system developed by Marshall
engineers that enables scientists to remotely operate Space Station
experiments from their own laboratories on Earth, receiving information
from and transmitting commands to their experiments aboard the Station
220 miles or more in space.
Marshall designed the
Station’s communications network to provide the critical electronic
link between Russia and the United States, especially the Mission
Control Centers in Moscow and Houston. The communication network
provides telephone, voice and video teleconferencing, wide and local
area networks, computer hardware and software acquisition and
maintenance, electronic mail, administrative data access and file
transfer, as well as the exchange of mission operations data and
Microgravity Research Facility Development
Marshall -- designated by
NASA as the Lead Center for Microgravity Research in the United States
— operates the Microgravity Development Laboratory, a new facility for
the development of microgravity payloads for the Space Shuttle and the
International Space Station. The laboratory will support the development
and processing of microgravity payloads that are serviced by Marshall
Center or made available to researchers in the science community. It
will also support on-orbit flight operations.
The Materials Science
Research Facility -- a standardized payload rack that will house
materials science experiments aboard the Space Station -- is being
designed, developed and tested at Marshall. Experiments conducted in the
facility will focus on the process that occurs as materials change from
a liquid to a solid state. Results of these experiments will be
important to improving materials processes on Earth.
Marshall is also designing
and testing the Microgravity Science Glovebox -- an enclosed experiment
facility accessible through airtight "glovedoors." Wearing
protective gloves, astronauts insert their hands into the Glovebox to
safely conduct otherwise hazardous experiments. Originally developed and
successfully implemented more than a decade ago for Spacelab research,
Gloveboxes are routinely employed on Space Shuttle science missions.
Aboard the Space Station, the Glovebox will be used for biotechnology,
combustion, fluid physics and materials science experiments.
Marshall is responsible for
integrating and managing all Space Station microgravity science and
commercial experiments, or payloads -- a process that ensures
experiments are operational and safe.
Online Assistance for
Visually Tracking the Space Station
News media and the public
can now watch the Space Station as it grows larger during construction
on orbit, thanks to Marshall software developers. A sophisticated
program called J-Pass enables users to track the Station and determine
in advance when its orbit will take it over their locations. J-Pass --
which requires a Java-enabled browser and recent versions of Netscape
Navigator or Microsoft Internet Explorer -- is part of the "Liftoff
to Space Exploration" site at:
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