The International Space Station
This is an artist’s rendition of the Space Shuttle docked with the International Space Station after completion.
Learn more about the Space Station assembly process below.
The International Space Station, or ISS, represents a global partnership of 16 nations. This project is an engineering, scientific and technological marvel ushering in a new era of human space exploration. The million-pound space station will include six laboratories and provide more space for research than any spacecraft ever built. Internal volume of the space station will be roughly equal to the passenger cabin volume of a 747 jumbo jet.
More than 40 space flights over five years and at least three space vehicles ? the space shuttle, the Russian Soyuz rocket and the Russian Proton rocket ? will deliver the various space station components to Earth orbit. Assembly of the more than 100 components will require a combination of human spacewalks and robot technologies.
The STS-88 crew uses the robotic arm to mate the Unity module to the Zarya module.
Twenty flights, which includes 16 space shuttle missions, have already occurred in the International Space Station era. The first flight was a Russian Proton rocket that lifted off in November 1998 and placed the Zarya module in orbit. In early December of that same year, the STS-88 mission saw Space Shuttle Endeavour attach the Unity Module to Zarya initiating the first ISS assembly sequence. The third ISS mission was STS-96 in June 1999 with Discovery supplying the two modules with tools and cranes.
The fourth flight to the space station was STS-101, which launched May 19, 2000. The seven-member crew of STS-101 performed maintenance tasks and delivered supplies in preparation for the arrival of the Zvezda Service Module and the station’s first permanent crew. Zvezda, the fifth flight, docked with the station on July 25 at 7:45 p.m. CDT (July 26 at 00:45 GMT), and became the third major component of the station. Then, STS-106 visited the station in September to deliver supplies and outfit Zvezda in preparation for the station’s first permanent crew, which arrived at the station on Nov. 2. Prior to the Expedition One crew’s arrival, STS-92 delivered the Z1 Truss, Pressurized Mating Adapter 3 and four Control Moment Gyros in October
STS-97 was the last shuttle mission of the 20th century. Space Shuttle Endeavour and its five-member crew installed the first set of U.S. solar arrays onto the station and became the first shuttle crew to visit Expedition One. The solar arrays set the stage for the arrival of the U.S. Destiny Laboratory Module, which arrived at the station in February 2001 on STS-98. The five STS-98 astronauts also relocated Pressurized Mating Adapter 2 from the end of Unity to the end of Destiny to set the stage for future shuttle missions.
In March 2001, the first crew rotation flight arrived. STS-102 delivered the Expedition Two crew to the station and returned Expedition One to Earth. Also, STS-102 carried the first Multi-Purpose Logistics Module, Leonardo, to the station. Logistics modules are reusable cargo carriers built by the Italian Space Agency. Expedition One spent 4.5 months on the station. STS-100 delivered the station’s robot arm, which is also known as the Space Station Remote Manipulator System, and the Raffaello Multi-Purpose Logistics Module in April. The delivery of the arm set the stage for the arrival of the station’s joint airlock, which was installed during STS-104‘s visit to the station in July 2001.
The next shuttle mission to visit the station was STS-105 in mid-August 2001. STS-105 delivered the Expedition Three crew to the International Space Station and returned the Expedition Two crew to Earth. The Leonardo Multi-Purpose Logistics Module made its second trip to the station during STS-105.
ISS expansion continued with the arrival of the Russian Docking Compartment on Sept. 16, 2001. The docking Compartment is called Pirs, which is the Russian word for pier.
The next flight to visit the space station was STS-108. It arrived at the station in early December 2001 and delivered the Expedition Four crew. Expedition Three returned to Earth on STS-108.
The first shuttle mission to visit the station in 2002 was STS-110. The seven-member STS-110 crew installed the S0 (S-Zero) Truss onto the station. The S0 was the second piece of the 11-piece Integrated Truss Structure delivered to the station.
The International Space Station is seen from Space Shuttle Endeavour just after undocking. During STS-113, the orbiter delivered the station’s newest element — the P1 (P-One) Truss.
The second shuttle mission of 2002 to visit the station was STS-111 in mid-June. STS-111 delivered the Expedition Five crew and the Mobile Base System to the orbital outpost. Also, STS-111 returned the Expedition Four crew to Earth. Flight Engineers Carl Walz and Dan Bursch set the record for the longest U.S. space flight with 196 days in space during Expedition Four.
Outward expansion of the station occurred during STS-112, which is also known as ISS Assembly Flight 9A, with the delivery the S1 Truss. The S1 was attached to the starboard side of the S0 Truss.
The last shuttle mission to visit the ISS during 2002 was STS-113, which delivered the Expedition Six crew and the P1 (P-One) Truss. The STS-113 crew performed three spacewalks to activate and outfit the P1 after it was attached to the port side of the S0 Truss. Expedition Five returned to Earth on Endeavour, wrapping up a six-month stay in space.
The United States and Russia have partnered together since 1994 performing nine Shuttle-Mir dockings. That experience provided valuable insight and team work necessary for building and maintaining the International Space Station.
When the space station is completed an international crew of up to seven will live and work in space between three and six months. Crew return vehicles will always be attached to the space station to ensure the safe return of all crewmembers in the event of an emergency.