International Space Station

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The 430-tonne orbiting space station being constructed by the USA, Russia, Japan, Canada, Brazil, and Europe (16 nations and around 100 000 workers in all). The final cost was expected to be more than US$90 billion. The complete station, orbiting at an altitude of around 378 km, will measure 88.4 m in length, 108.5 m across its solar wings, and 43.6 m in height. It is hoped that teams of up to seven astronauts will live and work for a period of three to six months in an area equivalent to the passenger cabins of two 747 jumbo jets, although a maximum of three crew members per mission is envisaged until at least 2006. The ISS is scheduled for completion in 2006, after 45 launches and 160 space walks. It is expected to be used until at least 2016. The first crew arrived at ISS in November 2000 under the command of NASA astronaut Bill Shepherd. By 17 September 2001, six habitable modules had been added to the ISS.

In November 1998, the ISS's first component was launched from Baikonur Cosmodrome; this was the Russian control module Zarya (Russian ‘sunrise’), providing initial propulsion and power. Unity, the six-sided US node (intersection point) that will connect the various modules was bolted on to Zarya the following month. Russia's Zvezda (Russian ‘star’) module, housing initial living quarters and flight controls, was connected in July 2000. The ‘Expedition One’ crew of three became the first long-term (four-month) residents on 2 November 2000 and chose their own name for the ISS: Space Station Alpha. In February 2001, NASA launched the US science laboratory module Destiny, the centrepiece of the station. In April, the ISS added the robotic Canadarm and was visited by US industrialist Dennis Tito, the first space tourist, who was reported to have paid around US$20 million to take part in the mission. By October 2001, the ISS was an estimated US$4.5 billion over budget. By 2004, it had reached a weight of 186 880 kg with a habitable volume of 425 cu m. Its width was 73 m across solar arrays, the length 44.5 m, and the height 27.5 m. Following the resumption of shuttle flights in 2005, NASA will move 75 600 kg of additional components to the ISS to triple the number of science facilities and triple the area of solar arrays.

Zarya is 12.6 m in length and 4.1 m at its widest point; Zvezda is 13 m long, with a wingspan of 30 m. After Zvezda was connected, it took over propulsion and thruster controls from Zarya, which was then used mostly for its storage capacity and external fuel tanks. Unity serves as a conduit for essential resources running to the living and working areas, and contains more than 50 000 mechanical items, 216 fluid and gas lines, and 121 electrical cables using 9.7 km of wire. Destiny, the first of six planned ISS research modules, will serve as the command and control centre. It is 8.5 m long, with a widest point of 4.3 m. In 2004, it housed seven different research facilities.


Subjects: Astronomy and Astrophysics.

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