International Space Station Construction Continues

The News:RIA Novosti (Russian News and Information Agency) has reported on September 11 that the crews of the U.S. space shuttle Atlantis and the International Space Station have met, as per a NASA spokesman. It is stated that the meeting was delayed a little, as it is required to normalise pressure and verify containment. The docking took place at 10.48 a.m. GMT above the southeastern Pacific.After many delays for two weeks due to technical malfunctions, storms and lightning strikes, the Atlantis was launched on September. The shuttle carried a new truss for ISS construction work, named P3/P4 truss. This truss will form a frame work for connecting existing ISS with new additional upcoming sections and a new set of solar arrays. Besides the truss fixing, the crew will prepare the truss and arrays ready for operation.



International Space Station

The International Space Station (ISS) is an international joint project of five space agencies to build and operate a permanent settlement in space for humans. The permanency here means the human presence in the structure not of any individual inhabitant. There have always been at least two people on board the ISS since the first permanent crew entered the ISS on November 2, 2000. The three inhabitants keep periodically changing. It is maintained by supplies made from earth. Russia’s Soyuz and NASA’s space shuttles are doing these sorties.

Its direct partners are National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA, United States), the Russian Federal Space Agency (RKA, Russian Federation), the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA, Japan), the Canadian Space Agency (CSA, Canada) and the European Space Agency (ESA, Europe).

One may think of the ISS as a union of space stations, previously planned to be independent, like Russia’s Mir-2, the US’ Freedom, European Columbus and Japanese Experiment Module. Orbiting at an altitude of approximately 360 km, in what is called as low Earth orbit, it takes about 92 minutes for each orbit. Tentatively, it all began with the launch of the Zarya module of Russia on November 20, 1998 and the ISS is progressively built over the years with the addition of modules. The process of building is still on. Actually, the pending work is very large but a string os failures with NASA shuttles halted its construction / expansion work, only to resume in April, 2006.

Some 40 flights are palnned of them 33 are Space Shuttle flights, with 17 already completed and 16 more planned from 2006 to 2010. In addition to these, many other assembly flights are also made by the Russian Proton rocket, Progress and Soyuz modules. When completed, the ISS will have a pressurized space of some 1,000 cubic meters, weighs 400 tons, producing roughly 100 kilowatts of power for a crew of six to live in modules 74 meters long in all.

ISS Assembly

It makes an interesting reading of the ISS assembly. A total of 10 main pressurized modules (Zarya, Zvezda, US Lab, Node 1, Node 2, Node 3, Columbus, Kibo, MLM and the RM) are currently scheduled to be part of the ISS by its completion date in 2010. A number of smaller pressurized sections (Soyuz spacecrafts) will be attached to them permanently 2 as lifeboats. Currently, at least one Soyuz spacecraft has to stay docked permanently as a ‘lifeboat’ and is replaced every six months by a new Soyuz as part of crew rotation!

As the beleaguered American Space Shuttles were grounded for many months, the construction work on ISS came to a halt, till April 2006 when they resumed. The Russian Soyuz modules became the sole supporters of the ISS for supplies in the mean time.

What to expect later?

On the first post-docking day, the STS-115 crew will the removal the 17.5-ton Port 3/Port 4 (P3/P4) truss segments from Atlantis’ cargo bay. This will launch the addition of this crucial truss to the ISS. If you are interested in further details go to NASA websites