History

Construction of the International Space Station

Construction of the International Space Station

In 1992 there is a fundamental advance in the rapprochement between the Russian and American space programs with the signing of the agreement for the realization of a joint mission between the American ferry and Mir.

The year after signing the agreement already mentioned for the joint construction of the International Space Station or ISS, merging the projects of Freedom and Mir 2. In the framework of the so-called Phase 1, the space shuttle is coupled with the Mir in Nine occasions and seven American astronauts remain there for several months between 1995 and 1998.

In addition, nine Russian cosmonauts travel on the ferry on several missions. During this phase, both countries gain experience in coordinating their respective space programs, as well as in the construction of the ISS: critical procedures are tested such as the coupling of the ferry to a station, the assembly of modules, joint extravehicular activities, testing of new technologies , etc.

At first the first piece of the station was to be the Russian service module (SM), similar to the central module of the Mir, which would provide a place of work and housing for three astronauts. The first American module should be Node 1, conceived as a docking point for later American modules.

However, NASA did not see with good eyes that the first module, and the most important in the first stage, was Russian. In addition, aware of the deficiencies of the American side in terms of fuel and propulsion storage, he proposed that the first piece be a Russian-built service module, very similar to the modules attached to the Mir. In this way, the American part gained in logistics capacity.

Despite all these setbacks, on November 20, 1998, two years later than planned, the Zaryá module was launched from Baykonur by means of a Proton rocket. In December, the ferry Endeavor successfully coupled Unity during the STS 88 mission.

Despite this good start, NASA is aware of the dependence of the ISS on Russian participation, unpredictable in the long term, so it has increased its efforts to reduce it. In this way, it has promoted the construction by the ESA of an automatic cargo vehicle (ATV, Ariane Transfer Vehicle) that can replace the Progress M, and has created the X-38 program to provide NASA with a vehicle for the evacuation of the crew in case of emergency, eliminating the dependence of the Soyuz.

In view of the economic problems, the Russian Space Agency decided to sell to NASA the scientific participation in Russian laboratories for 60 million dollars, in exchange for financial help to finish the SM in time, so Russia abandons any involvement in the Science developed in the ISS.

The ISS is the most expensive and complex space laboratory in the history of mankind. On board, experiments in biology, material dynamics, Earth observation or astronomy, among others, are carried out. Apart from Russia, the United States, Japan and ESA, Canada, Brazil and Ukraine also participate, making the International Space Station a global project.

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