International Space Station


The International Space Station is an Earth orbiting laboratory. The station has been in orbit since 1998 and is expected to remain in operation until at least 2020. The International Space Station is visited by ISS crew expeditions.

International Space Station Picture

What is the International Space Station?

The International Space Station (ISS) is the largest space project to date and the most complex international scientific project in history. It is a joint a collaboration of 16 countries: United States (NASA), Russia (Russian Federal Space Agency – formerly Rosaviakosmos), Brazil, Canada (Canadian Space Agency),  Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) and the European Space Agency. ESA members involved are Belgium, Denmark, France, Germany, Italy, Netherlands, Norway, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland and United Kingdom. NASA uses the station to learn about living and working in space.

Interesting Facts and Specs

Orbital Inclination: 51.6 degrees
Orbit Height: 370 km (230 miles)
Mass: 450,000 kg (990,000 lb) approx.
Days in Orbit: 5392 (August 2013)
Crew: 6
Length: 72.8 m (239 ft)
Width: 108.5 m (356 ft)

Space Station Information

The ISS is visited by a variety of spacecraft use docking ports to connect to the space station. The Quest Airlock enables access for spacewalks essential to the facility’s continuing construction.

Canadarm2 is a Canadian-built apparatus is a large, remote-controlled space arm that functions as a crane and is being utilized for a wide variety of tasks.

The International Space Station travels around the Earth at an average speed of 27,700 km/hr and completes 16 orbits per day


When fully constructed, the Space Station will be visible to more than 90 percent of the world’s population. Also when finished the space station will be one of the brightest objects in the sky.

How Big Is the Space Station? 

The ISS is as big inside as a house with five bedrooms and can cover a football field. It has science labs from the United States, Russia, Japan and Europe. Six live on the ISS. It weighs almost a million pounds. The ISS will be 5 times larger than Mir when complete.

How Old Is the Space Station? 

The first module of the International Space Station was launched in 1998. The first crew arrived in October 2000. People have lived on the space station ever since.

ISS Transport

ISS Expedition Crews are delivered to the ISS Russia’s Soyuz SpacecraftSpace Shuttle is no longer used because it has been retired. At present, the Soyuz functions as the only crewed space vehicle and is the ISS Emergency Crew Vehicle. Cargo is delivered by Russia’s Progress SpacecraftEurope’s ATV, Japan’s H-II Transfer Vehicle, Orbital ATK’s Cygnus and SpaceX Dragon spacecraft. In the future Boeing CST-100 and SpaceX Dragon will deliver crew to ISS. Also Dream Chaser spaceplane in 2020 will be used carry cargo to the ISS. The US Space Shuttle is no longer used for crew and cargo delivery to the ISS. It was retired in 2011.

Manned MissionsThe current mission is Expedition 49.

Space Shuttle and the ISS

Space Shuttle Endeavour STS-88 was the first Space Shuttle mission to the International Space Station (ISS). It also carried the first American module (the Unity node) to the station.

The last space shuttle to the International Space Station was Space Shuttle Atlantis STS-135. The final mission was launched on 8 July 2011.

What are the Parts of the Space Station? 

The International Space Station consists of many parts called modules. These modules provide living areas. Modules called ‘nodes’ connect other parts. Labs on the space station let astronauts do research.

Solar Arrays are used to collect energy from the sun. They turn it into electricity. They are located on the sides of the space station. Robot arms are attached outside. Some helped to build the space station. They can also move astronauts around outside. Other arms control science experiments.

Airlocks on the space station are like doors. Astronauts use them to go outside on spacewalks. Astronauts work in spacesuits to help build and maintain the space station.

International Space Station Modules

The following modules are present in orbit:

1. Zarya Module (FGB) – Zarya as the first ISS module to be placed in orbit. It was launched November 20, 1998.
Specs: Length:12.56 m (41.2 ft) Diameter — 4.11 m (13.5 ft) Solar array length — 10.67 m (35.0 ft) Solar array width — 3.35 m (11.0 ft) Mass — 19,323 kg (42,600 lb)
2. Unity Module (Node Module 1) – carried by STS-88 Endeavour on December 4, 1998.
3. Zvezda (Service Module) – Zvezda Module was launched on 12th July, 2000 on a Proton rocket.
4. Destiny Laboratory Module – carried by STS-88 Atlantis on February 1, 2001.
5. Joint Airlock (Quest airlock) – carried on STS-104 Atlantis on July 12, 2001.
6. Docking Compartment (Pirs airlock) – delivered on August 14, 2001 by a Russian Progress-M spacecraft.
7. Harmony (Node 2):
8. Tranquility (Node 3)
9. Destiny (Laboratory) – launched on February 7, 2001 aboard the Space Shuttle Atlantis on STS-98.
10. Columbus (Laboratory)
11. Kibo (PM, ELM-PS, EF)
12. Quest (Airlock) ·
13. Pirs (Airlock / Docking Module)
14. Rassvet (MRM 1) – flown to the ISS aboard Space Shuttle Atlantis on the STS-132 mission on May 14, 2010.
15. Poisk (MRM 2) – Launched on November 10, 2009 on a Soyuz-U rocket from Kazakhstan.
16. Leonardo (PMM)
17. Cupola – Launched aboard Space Shuttle mission STS-130 on 8 February 2010.
18. Integrated Truss Structure (ITS)
19. Bigelow Expandable Activity Module (BEAM) – first inflatable space station module. Launch in 2015.
20. Nauka – Multipurpose Laboratory Module (MLM). Launch November 2017.
21. Uzlovoy Module (UM) – Node Module. Launch 2017.
22. Science Power Module 1 (NEM-1). Launch 2018.
23. Science Power Module 2 (NEM-2) Launch 2018.


NASA has introduced a service which alerts when the International Space Station from your house? Several times a week, Mission Control at NASA’s Johnson Space Center in Houston, Texas, determines sighting opportunities for 4,600 locations worldwide. NASA’s Spot The Station service sends an email or text message a few hours before a sighting opportunity near you.


The ISS has been continuously staffed since 2 November 2000. It is the 9th inhabited Space Station.

Dennis Tito visited the International Space Station as the first space tourist in 2001. French Astronaut Claudie Haignere was the first European woman to serve aboard the International Space Station (ISS). The French-Russian flight blasted off to the ISS on October 21, 2001.

SpaceX CRS-1 was the first commercial resupply mission to the International Space Station. It was launched for on Sunday, October 7 2012.

Kirobo, Earth’s first talking robot to go off world visited the International Space Station in 2013 and its prime directive is to tackle loneliness.


First Year-Long Mission to the International Space Station may begin in March 2015 following an agreement between ISS partners who previously sent crews for six months.

Alexei Krasnov, in charge of manned flights at the Federal Space Agency said the decision was made by participants in the International Astronautical Congress in Naples, Italy during the first week of October 2012.

The single mission / two-person expedition will be a first test, the result of which will determine whether all flights are extended to a year. Two members of the international crew, a Russian cosmonaut and a NASA astronaut will be picked to carry out this year long mission.

Did you know?

* NASA planned to use X-38 as a Crew Return Vehicle, however it was cancelled in 2001 due to budgetary reasons.

* In the future a derivative of the Crew Exploration Vehicle (CEV) may be used.

* In the future the ISS may be privatized.

Creating the International Space Station 
by David M. Harland, John E. Catchpole

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International Space Station Poster

Inside the Space Station (2000) from

NASA: Space Shuttle – Training, Facilities, Space Station from

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