The ISS: Still in Service

The ISS: Still in Service

logoatv1Although it has been in service now for a full twenty years, the International Space Station is still one of the most impressive craft developed by humans. In 1993, the ISS combined NASA’s Space Station Freedom project with the Russian Mir-2 station, ESA’s Columbus station, and JAXA’s Kibo laboratory. It has been continuously occupied for over twelve years, with a current capacity of six astronauts.


There are experiments in progress on subjects ranging from astronomy to engineering, and data is routinely collected on meteorology and the physical sciences. One of the most important research topics, though, is simply a by-product of living on the ISS: Astrobiology. With each astronaut staying aboard for around six months, information is gathered about the effects of long-term space exposure on the human body. This data will hopefully answer the question of whether long-term space travel is truly feasible.


ISS consists of 11 modules, including those for research, sleeping, and even an observatory. Three more modules are expected to be added soon. Power is supplied by solar arrays, which are arranged in four wing pairs. Each wing produces 32.8 kW, and there are rechargeable nickel-hydrogen batteries for when the Earth is between the sun and the ISS.

Life support is probably the most important system, and it is arranged for both safety and comfort. Atmospheric control systems keep the air pressure at 14.7 psi, the same as at sea level on Earth. Backup oxygen systems include both bottled oxygen and SFOG canisters, which generate oxygen chemically in the event of an emergency.

While the Russian Soyuz is the only ship currently capable of transporting crew members, supplies are brought on a rotating schedule by the Russian Progress spacecraft which has done so since 2000, ESA’s Automated Transfer Vehicle (ATV) since 2008, and Japan’s H-II Transfer Vehicle (HTV) since 2009. In 2012, the American responsibility for resupply missions was taken over by the Dragon.

ATV specs



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