Assembly of the International Space Station

  (Redirected from ISS assembly sequence)

Animation of the assembly of the International Space Station

The process of assembling the International Space Station (ISS) has been under way since the 1990s. Zarya, the first ISS module, was launched by a Proton rocket on 20 November 1998. The STS-88 Space Shuttle mission followed two weeks after Zarya was launched, bringing Unity, the first of three node modules, and connecting it to Zarya. This bare 2-module core of the ISS remained uncrewed for the next one and a half years, until in July 2000 the Russian module Zvezda was launched by a Proton rocket, allowing a maximum crew of two astronauts or cosmonauts to be on the ISS permanently.

The ISS has a pressurized volume of approximately 1,000 cubic metres (35,000 cu ft), a mass of approximately 420,000 kilograms (930,000 lb), approximately 100 kilowatts of power output, a truss 108.4 metres (356 ft) long, modules 74 metres (243 ft) long, and a crew of six. Building the complete station required more than 40 assembly flights. As of 2020, 36 Space Shuttle flights delivered ISS elements. Other assembly flights consisted of modules lifted by the Falcon 9, Russian Proton rocket or, in the case of Pirs and Poisk, the Soyuz-U rocket.

Some of the larger modules include:


International Space Station mockup at Johnson Space Center in Houston, Texas.

The space station is located in orbit around the Earth at an altitude of approximately 410 km (250 mi), a type of orbit usually termed low Earth orbit (the actual height varies over time by several kilometers due to atmospheric drag and reboosts). It orbits Earth in a period of about 90 minutes; by August 2007 it had completed more than 50,000 orbits since launch of Zarya on 20 November 1998.

A total of 14 main pressurized modules were scheduled to be part of the ISS by its completion date in 2010.[1] A number of smaller pressurized sections will be adjunct to them (Soyuz spacecraft (permanently 2 as lifeboats – 6 months rotations), Progress transporters (2 or more), the Quest and Pirs airlocks, as well as periodically the H-II Transfer Vehicle).

The ISS, when completed, will consist of a set of communicating pressurized modules connected to a truss, on which four large pairs of photovoltaic modules (solar panels) are attached. The pressurized modules and the truss are perpendicular: the truss spanning from starboard to port and the habitable zone extending on the aft-forward axis. Although during the construction the station attitude may vary, when all four photovoltaic modules are in their definitive position the aft-forward axis will be parallel to the velocity vector.[2]

In addition to the assembly and utilization flights, approximately 30 Progress spacecraft flights are required to provide logistics until 2010. Experimental equipment, fuel and consumables are and will be delivered by all vehicles visiting the ISS: the SpaceX Dragon, the Russian Progress, the European ATV and the Japanese HTV, and space station downmass will be carried back to Earth facilities on the Dragon.[3]

Columbia disaster and changes in construction plansEdit

Columbia lifting off on its final mission.

Disaster and consequencesEdit

10 March 2001 – The Leonardo Multi-Purpose Logistics Module rests in Space Shuttle Discovery's payload bay during STS-102.

After the Space Shuttle Columbia disaster on 1 February 2003, there was some uncertainty over the future of the ISS. The subsequent two and a half-year suspension of the U.S. Space Shuttle program, followed by problems with resuming flight operations in 2005, were major obstacles.[citation needed]

The Space Shuttle program resumed flight on 26 July 2005, with the STS-114 mission of Discovery. This mission to the ISS was intended both to test new safety measures implemented since the Columbia disaster and deliver supplies to the station. Although the mission succeeded safely, it was not without risk; foam was shed by the external tank, leading NASA to announce future missions would be grounded until this issue was resolved.[citation needed]

Between the Columbia disaster and the resumption of Shuttle launches, crew exchanges were carried out solely using the Russian Soyuz spacecraft. Starting with Expedition 7, two-astronaut caretaker crews were launched in contrast to the previously launched crews of three. Because the ISS had not been visited by a shuttle for an extended period, a larger than planned amount of waste accumulated, temporarily hindering station operations in 2004. However Progress transports and the STS-114 shuttle flight took care of this problem.[citation needed]

Changes in construction plansEdit

Construction of the International Space Station over New Zealand.

Many changes were made to the originally planned ISS, even before the Columbia disaster. Modules and other structures were cancelled or replaced, and the number of Shuttle flights to the ISS was reduced from previously planned numbers. However, more than 80% of the hardware intended to be part of the ISS in the late 1990s was orbited and is now part of the ISS's configuration.[citation needed]

During the shuttle stand-down, construction of the ISS was halted and the science conducted aboard was limited due to the crew size of two, adding to earlier delays due to Shuttle problems and the Russian space agency's budget constraints.[citation needed]

In March 2006, a meeting of the heads of the five participating space agencies accepted the new ISS construction schedule that planned to complete the ISS by 2010.[4]

As of May 2009, a crew of six has been established following 12 Shuttle construction flights after the second "Return to Flight" mission STS-121. Requirements for stepping up the crew size included enhanced environmental support on the ISS, a second Soyuz permanently docked on the station to function as a second 'lifeboat', more frequent Progress flights to provide double the amount of consumables, more fuel for orbit raising maneuvers, and a sufficient supply line of experimental equipment.[citation needed]

Later additions included the Bigelow Expandable Activity Module (BEAM) in 2016, and numerous Russian components are planned as part of the in-orbit construction of OPSEK.[citation needed]

Assembly sequenceEdit

ISS elements

The ISS is made up of 16 pressurized modules: four Russian modules (Pirs, Zvezda, Poisk and Rassvet), nine US modules (Zarya,[5] BEAM,[6] Leonardo, Harmony, Quest, Tranquility, Unity, Cupola, and Destiny), two Japanese modules (the JEM-ELM-PS and JEM-PM) and one European module (Columbus). One more Russian pressurized module (Nauka) is scheduled to be added to the station.[citation needed]

Although not permanently docked with the ISS, Multi-Purpose Logistics Modules (MPLMs) formed part of the ISS during some Shuttle missions. An MPLM was attached to Harmony (initially to Unity) and was used for resupply and logistics flights.[citation needed]

Spacecraft attached to the ISS also extend the pressurized volume. At least one Soyuz spacecraft is always docked as a 'lifeboat' and is replaced every six months by a new Soyuz as part of crew rotation. Table below shows the sequence in which these components were added to the ISS.[7]

Element Assembly
Length Diameter Mass Pressurized volume Isolated View Station View
Zarya (FGB) 1A/R 1998-11-20 Proton-K 12.56 m (41.2 ft) 4.1 m (13 ft) 24,968 kg (55,045 lb) 71.5 m3 (2,520 cu ft)    
Unity (Node 1) 2A 1998-12-04 Space Shuttle Endeavour (STS-88) 5.5 m (18 ft) 4.3 m (14 ft) 11,895 kg (26,224 lb)    
PMA-1 1.86 m (6 ft 1 in) 1.9 m (6 ft 3 in) 1,589 kg (3,503 lb)  
PMA-2 1.86 m (6 ft 1 in) 1.9 m (6 ft 3 in) 1,376 kg (3,034 lb)  
Zvezda (Service Module) 1R 2000-07-12 Proton-K 13.1 m (43 ft) 4.2 m (14 ft) 24,604 kg (54,243 lb)    
Z1 Truss 3A 2000-10-11 Space Shuttle Discovery (STS-92)    
PMA-3 1.86 m (6 ft 1 in) 1.9 m (6 ft 3 in) 1,183 kg (2,608 lb)  
P6 Truss & Solar Arrays 4A 2000-11-30 Space Shuttle Endeavour (STS-97)    
Destiny (US Laboratory) 5A 2001-02-07 Space Shuttle Atlantis (STS-98) 9.2 m (30 ft) 4.3 m (14 ft) 14,515 kg (32,000 lb)    
ESP-1 5A.1 2001-03-08 Space Shuttle Discovery (STS-102)    
Canadarm2 (SSRMS) 6A 2001-04-19 Space Shuttle Endeavour (STS-100)    
Quest (Joint Airlock) 7A 2001-07-12 Space Shuttle Atlantis (STS-104) 5.5 m (18 ft) 4.0 m (13.1 ft) 9,923 kg (21,876 lb)    
Pirs (Docking Compartment) 4R 2001-09-14 Soyuz-U
(Progress M-SO1)
4.9 m (16 ft) 2.55 m (8.4 ft) 3,838 kg (8,461 lb) 13 m3 (460 cu ft)    
S0 Truss[8] 8A 2002-04-08 Space Shuttle Atlantis (STS-110)    
Mobile Base System UF2 2002-06-05 Space Shuttle Endeavour (STS-111)    
S1 Truss 9A 2002-10-07 Space Shuttle Atlantis (STS-112)    
P1 Truss 11A 2002-11-23 Space Shuttle Endeavour (STS-113)    
ESP-2 LF1 2005-07-26 Space Shuttle Discovery (STS-114)    
P3/P4 Truss & Solar Arrays[9] 12A 2006-09-09 Space Shuttle Atlantis (STS-115)    
P5 Truss[10] 12A.1 2006-12-09 Space Shuttle Discovery (STS-116)    
S3/S4 Truss & Solar Arrays 13A 2007-06-08 Space Shuttle Atlantis (STS-117)    
S5 Truss 13A.1 2007-08-08 Space Shuttle Endeavour (STS-118)    
Harmony (Node 2) 10A 2007-10-23 Space Shuttle Discovery (STS-120)    
Relocation of
P6 Truss
Columbus (European Laboratory)[11] 1E 2008-02-07 Space Shuttle Atlantis (STS-122)    
Dextre (SPDM) 1J/A 2008-03-11 Space Shuttle Endeavour (STS-123)    
Experiment Logistics Module (ELM)  
JEM Pressurized Module (JEM-PM)[12][13] 1J 2008-05-31 Space Shuttle Discovery (STS-124)    
JEM Remote Manipulator System (JEMRMS)  
S6 Truss & Solar Arrays 15A 2009-03-15 Space Shuttle Discovery (STS-119)    
Kibo Exposed Facility (JEM-EF) 2J/A 2009-07-15 Space Shuttle Endeavour (STS-127)    
Poisk (MRM-2)[14][15] 5R 2009-11-10 Soyuz-U
(Progress M-MIM2)
ELC-1 ULF3 2009-11-16 Space Shuttle Atlantis (STS-129)    
Tranquility (Node 3) 20A 2010-02-08 Space Shuttle Endeavour (STS-130)    
Rassvet (MRM-1)[16] ULF4 2010-05-14 Space Shuttle Atlantis (STS-132)    
Leonardo (PMM) ULF5 2011-02-24 Space Shuttle Discovery (STS-133)    
AMS-02 ULF6 2011-05-16 Space Shuttle Endeavour (STS-134)    
BEAM[17] 2016-04-08 Falcon 9 (SpaceX CRS-8)    
IDA-2[18][19] 2016-07-18 Falcon 9 (SpaceX CRS-9)  
IDA-3[20] 2019-07-25 Falcon 9 (SpaceX CRS-18)

Cancelled modulesEdit

Diagram of the planned ISS circa 1999

Proposed modulesEdit

The following modules are proposed, but not yet confirmed in the ISS launch manifests.

  • American Node 4 – Also known as the Docking Hub System (DHS),[21] would allow the station to have more docking ports for visiting vehicles and would allow inflatable habitats and technology demonstrations to be tested as part of the station.[22]
  • Nautilus-X Centrifuge Demonstration – If produced, this centrifuge will be the first in-space demonstration of sufficient scale centrifuge for artificial partial-g effects. It will be designed to become a sleep module for the ISS crew.[23]
  • Axiom Space plans on launching several modules to connect where PMA-2 is currently at as part of the commercial Axiom Station project. At the end of the ISS's life, Axiom Station could be detached from the ISS and continue in orbit as a commercial low orbit platform.[24]


The ISS is credited as the most expensive item ever built, costing around $150 billion (USD),[25] making it more expensive than Skylab (costing US$2.2 billion) [26] and Mir (US$4.2 billion).[27]

See alsoEdit


  1. ^ "Consolidated Launch Manifest". NASA. Archived from the original on 7 July 2006. Retrieved 15 July 2006.
  2. ^ "What are the ISS attitudes?" (Flash). NASA. Archived from the original on 2 September 2006. Retrieved 11 September 2006.
  3. ^ Black, Charles (24 December 2012). "When Dragon made commercial spaceflight a reality". SEN. Retrieved 26 December 2012. [Dragon's] ability to return goods is currently unique because all the other regular supply ships – Europe's Automated Transfer Vehicle (ATV), Japan's HTV (or "Kounotori") and Russia's Progress – all burn up during controlled re-entry.
  4. ^ Coppinger, Rob (3 March 2006). "NASA commits to Shuttle missions to International Space Station". FlightGlobal. Retrieved 16 September 2006.
  5. ^ . Retrieved 3 March 2019.
  6. ^ . Retrieved 27 November 2017.
  7. ^ "Reference Guide to the International Space Station" (PDF). NASA. September 2015. Retrieved 8 June 2019.
  8. ^ "Space Station Assembly: Integrated Truss Structure". NASA. Archived from the original on 7 December 2007. Retrieved 2 December 2007.
  9. ^ "P3 and P4 to expand station capabilities, providing a third and fourth solar array" (PDF). Boeing. July 2006. Retrieved 2 December 2007.
  10. ^ "STS-118 MISSION OVERVIEW: BUILD THE STATION…BUILD THE FUTURE" (PDF). NASA PAO. July 2007. Archived (PDF) from the original on 1 December 2007. Retrieved 2 December 2007.
  11. ^ "Columbus laboratory". ESA. 10 January 2009. Archived from the original on 30 March 2009. Retrieved 6 March 2009.
  12. ^ "About Kibo". JAXA. 25 September 2008. Archived from the original on 10 March 2009. Retrieved 6 March 2009.
  13. ^ "Kibo Japanese Experiment Module". NASA. 23 November 2007. Archived from the original on 23 October 2008. Retrieved 22 November 2008.
  14. ^ Zak, Anatoly. "Docking Compartment-1 and 2". Archived from the original on 10 February 2009. Retrieved 26 March 2009.
  15. ^ Bergin, Chris (9 November 2009). "Russian module launches via Soyuz for Thursday ISS docking". Archived from the original on 13 November 2009. Retrieved 10 November 2009.
  16. ^ "NASA Extends Contract With Russia's Federal Space Agency" (Press release). NASA. 9 April 2007. Archived from the original on 23 June 2007. Retrieved 15 June 2007.
  17. ^ "NASA to Test Bigelow Expandable Module on Space Station". NASA. 16 January 2013. Retrieved 16 January 2013.
  18. ^ Jason Rhian (18 July 2016). "SpaceX Conducts Second Ground Landing After Launch Of CRS-9 Dragon To ISS". Spaceflight Insider.
  19. ^ Harwood, William (19 August 2016). "Spacewalkers attach docking adapter to space station for commercial vehicles". Spaceflight. Retrieved 20 August 2016.
  20. ^
  21. ^ ISS Managers review long-term configuration of International Space Station |
  22. ^ Test article could facilitate space station applications – 31 August 2010
  23. ^ Nautilus-X-Holderman_1-26-11
  24. ^
  25. ^ "Is The International Space Station The Most Expensive Single Item Ever Built?". Science 2.0. 27 August 2014. Retrieved 3 May 2018.
  26. ^ "The Space Review: Costs of US piloted programs". Retrieved 3 May 2018.
  27. ^ Tyler, Patrick E. (24 March 2001). "Russians Find Pride, and Regret, in Mir's Splashdown". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved 3 May 2018.

External linksEdit

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