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Facts, History & Tracking - ISS - International Space Station

International Space Station (ISS), space station assembled in low Earth orbit largely by the United States and Russia, with assistance and components from a multinational consortium.

The project, which began as an American effort, was long delayed by funding and technical problems. Originally called Freedom in the 1980s by Pres. Ronald Reagan, who authorized the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) to build it within 10 years, it was redesigned in the 1990s to reduce costs and expand international involvement, at which time it was renamed. In 1993 the United States and Russia agreed to merge their separate space station plans into a single facility integrating their respective modules and incorporating contributions from the European Space Agency (ESA) and Japan.

Assembly of the International Space Station (ISS) began with the launches of the Russian control module Zarya on November 20, 1998, and the U.S.-built Unity connecting node the following month, which were linked in orbit by U.S. space shuttle astronauts. In mid-2000 the Russian-built module Zvezda, a habitat and control centre, was added, and on November 2 of that year the ISS received its first resident crew, comprising Russian cosmonauts Sergey Krikalyov and Yuri Gidzenko and American astronaut William Shepherd, who flew up in a Soyuz spacecraft. The ISS has been continuously occupied since then. A NASA microgravity laboratory called Destiny and other elements were subsequently joined to the station, with the overall plan calling for the assembly, over a period of several years, of a complex of laboratories and habitats crossed by a long truss supporting four units that held large solar-power arrays and thermal radiators. Aside from the United States and Russia, station construction involved Canada, Japan, Brazil, and 11 ESA members. Russian modules were carried into space by Russian expendable launch vehicles, after which they automatically rendezvoused with and docked to the ISS. Other elements were ferried up by space shuttle and assembled in orbit during space walks. Both shuttles and Russian Soyuz spacecraft transported people to and from the station, and a Soyuz remained docked to the ISS at all times as a “lifeboat.”

 After the breakup of the space shuttle orbiter Columbia in February 2003, the shuttle fleet was grounded, which effectively halted expansion of the station. Meanwhile, the crew was reduced from three to two, and their role was restricted mainly to caretaker status, limiting the amount of science that could be done. Crews flew up to and returned from the ISS in Soyuz spacecraft, and the station was serviced by automated Progress ferries.

After the shuttle resumed regular flights in 2006, the ISS crew size was increased to three. Construction resumed in September of that year, with the addition of a pair of solar wings and a thermal radiator. The European-built American node, Harmony, was placed on the end of Destiny in October 2007. Harmony has a docking port for the space shuttle and connecting ports for a European laboratory, Columbus, and a Japanese laboratory, Kibo. In February 2008 Columbus was mounted on Harmony’s starboard side. Columbus was Europe’s first long-duration crewed space laboratory and contained experiments in such fields as biology and fluid dynamics. In the following month an improved variant of the Ariane V rocket launched Europe’s heaviest spacecraft, the Jules Verne Automated Transfer Vehicle (ATV), which carried 7,700 kg (17,000 pounds) of supplies to the ISS. Also in March 2008 shuttle astronauts brought the Canadian robot, Dextre, which was so sophisticated that it would be able to perform tasks that previously would have required astronauts to make space walks, and the first part of Kibo. In June 2008 the main part of Kibo was installed.

The ISS became fully operational in May 2009 when it began hosting a six-person crew; this required two Soyuz lifeboats to be docked with the ISS at all times. The six-person crew has typically consisted of three Russians, two Americans, and one astronaut from either Japan, Canada, or the ESA. An external platform was attached to the far end of Kibo in July 2009, and a Russian docking port and airlock, Poisk, was attached to the Zvezda module in November 2009. A third node, Tranquility, was installed in 2010, and mounted on this was a cupola, whose robotic workstation and many windows enabled astronauts to supervise external operations.

After completion of the ISS, the shuttle was retired from service in 2011. Thereafter the ISS was serviced by Russia’s Progress, Europe’s ATV, Japan’s H-II Transfer Vehicle, and two commercial cargo vehicles, SpaceX’s Dragon and Orbital Sciences Corporation’s Cygnus. Two new American crew capsules, SpaceX’s Dragon 2 and the Boeing Company’s CST-100 Starliner, are scheduled to have their first test flights in 2018. Until then, astronauts use Soyuz spacecraft to reach the ISS. The space agencies that are partners in the ISS have not definitively decided when the program will end, but in 2014 the Obama administration indicated that the program would receive support until “at least 2024.” Russia has expressed interest in reusing its ISS modules in a new space station.

As of January 2018, 230 individuals from 18 countries have visited the International Space Station. Top participating countries include the United States (145 people) and Russia (46 people). Astronaut time and research time on the space station is allocated to space agencies according to how much money or resources (such as modules or robotics) that they contribute. The ISS includes contributions from 15 nations. NASA (United States), Roscosmos (Russia) and the European Space Agency are the major partners of the space station who contribute most of the funding; the other partners are the Japanese Aerospace Exploration Agency and the Canadian Space Agency.

Finding the space station in the sky

The International Space Station with ESA’s Columbus laboratory flies 400 km high at speeds that defy gravity – literally. At 28 800 km/h it only takes 90 minutes for the weightless laboratory to make a complete circuit of Earth. Astronauts working and living on the Station experience 16 sunrises and sunsets each day.

The tracker above, developed by ESA, shows where the Space Station is right now and its path 90 minutes ago and 90 minutes ahead. Due to Earth's rotation the Station seems to travel from west to east over our planet. Below the map of Earth you can see where the Station is flying directly above. You can see the International Space Station with your own eyes from here by looking up at the right time.

Below is a live view of Earth taken by a camera on the International Space Station, a view similar to that astronauts get from above. Without Earth’s atmosphere to protect us, people and equipment endure the full barrage of cosmic rays and solar radiation. The images are part of the NASA HDEV experiment that is looking at how fast these harmful rays degrade the image through camera and equipment damage. Sometimes the image is black because the Space Station does not have continuous radio contact with ground control. In that case, check back later.

Records in space

The ISS has had several notable milestones over the years, when it comes to crews:

  • Most consecutive days in space by an American: 340 days, which happened when Scott Kelly took part in a one-year mission to the International Space Station in 2015-16 (along with Russian cosmonaut Mikhail Kornienko). The space agencies did a comprehensive suite of experiments on the astronauts, including a "twin study" with Kelly and his Earth-bound former astronaut twin, Mark. NASA has expressed interest in more long-duration missions, although none have yet been announced.
  • Most women in space at once: This happened in April 2010 when women from two spaceflight missions met at the ISS. This included Tracy Caldwell Dyson (who flew on a Soyuz spacecraft for a long-duration 
  • Longest single spaceflight by a woman: 289 days, during American astronaut Peggy Whitson's 2016-17 mission aboard the space station.
  • Biggest space gathering: 13 people, during NASA's STS-127 shuttle mission aboard Endeavour in 2009. (It's been tied a few times during later missions.)
  • Longest single spacewalk: 8 hours and 56 minutes during STS-102, for an ISS construction mission in 2001. NASA astronauts Jim Voss and Susan Helms participated.
  • Most total time spent in space by a woman: Again, that's Peggy Whitson, who racked up most of her 665 days in space on the ISS.
  • Longest Russian spacewalk: 8 hours and 13 minutes during Expedition 54, to repair an ISS antenna. Russian astronauts Alexander Misurkin and Anton Shkaplerov participated.

The table lists the spaceflights that have gone to the International Space Station.

  Mission Crew Crew photo Dates Time docked:
1 STS-88 Robert D. Cabana
Frederick W. Sturckow
Nancy J. Currie
Jerry L. Ross
James H. Newman
Russia Sergei Krikalev
December 4, 1998 6 days 18h
2 STS-96 Kent V. Rominger
Rick D. Husband
Tamara E. Jernigan
Ellen L. Ochoa
Daniel T. Barry
Julie Payette
Valery Tokarev
May 27, 1999 5 days 18h
3 STS-101 James D. Halsell
Scott J. Horowitz
Mary E. Weber
Jeffrey N. Williams
James S. Voss
Susan J. Helms
Yury Usachev
May 19, 2000 5 days 18h
4 STS-106 Terrence W. Wilcutt
Scott D. Altman
Edward T. Lu
Richard A. Mastracchio
Daniel C. Burbank
Yuri Malenchenko
Boris Morukov
September 8, 2000 7 days 21h
5 STS-92 Brian Duffy
Pamela A. Melroy
Leroy Chiao
William S. McArthur
Peter J. K. Wisoff
Michael E. Lopez-Alegria
Wakata
October 11, 2000 6 days 21h
6 Soyuz TM-31 yuri Gidzenko
Sergei Krikalev
William M. Shepherd
October 31, 2000 183 days
7 STS-97 Brent W. Jett
Michael J. Bloomfield
Joseph R. Tanner
Carlos I. Noriega
Marc Garneau
iss7 November 30, 2000 6 days 23h
8 STS-98 Kenneth D. Cockrell
Mark L. Polansky
URobert L. Curbeam
Marsha S. Ivins
Thomas D. Jones
iss8 February 7, 2001 6 days 21h
9 STS-102 James D. Wetherbee
James M. Kelly
Paul W. Richards
Andrew S. W. Thomas
Yury Usachev
James S. Voss
Susan J. Helms
iss9 March 8, 2001 8 days 21h
10 STS-100 Kent V. Rominger
Jeffrey S. Ashby
John L. Phillips
Scott E. Parazynski
Chris A. Hadfield
Umberto Guidoni
Yuri Lonchakov
iss10 April 19, 2001 8 days 3h
11 Soyuz TM-32 Talgat Musabayev
Yuri Baturin
ennis A. Tito
iss11 April 28, 2001 183 days
12 STS-104 Steven W. Lindsey
Charles O. Hobaugh
Michael L. Gernhardt
Janet L. Kavandi
James F. Reilly
iss12 July 12, 2001 8 days 1h
 13  STS-105 Scott J. Horowitz
Frederick W. Sturckow
Daniel T. Barry
Patrick G. Forrester
Frank L. Culbertson
Mikhail Tyurin
Vladimir Dezhurov
STS-105 August 10, 2001 9 days 20h
14 Soyuz TM-33 Viktor Afanasyev
Konstantin Kozeyev
Claudie Haigneré
Soyuz TM-33 October 21, 2001 193 days
15 UF-1 Dominic L. Pudwill Gorie
Mark E. Kelly
Linda M. Godwin
Daniel M. Tani
Yuri Onufrienko
Carl E. Walz
Daniel W. Bursch
UF-1 crew December 5, 2001 7 days 21h
16 8A Michael J. Bloomfield
Stephen N. Frick
Jerry L. Ross
Steven L. Smith
Ellen L. Ochoa
Lee M. E. Morin
Rex J. Walheim
8A crew April 8, 2002 7 days 2h
17 4S Yuri Gidzenko
Roberto Vittori
Mark Shuttleworth
4S Crew April 25, 2002 196 days
18 UF-2 Kenneth D. Cockrell
Paul S. Lockhart
Franklin R. Chang-Diaz
Philippe Perrin
Valery Korzun
Sergei Treshchev
States Peggy A. Whitson
UF-2 crew June 5, 2002 7 days 22h
19 9A Jeffrey S. Ashby
Pamela A. Melroy
David A. Wolf
Sandra H. Magnus
Piers J. Sellers
Fyodor Yurchikhin
9A Crew October 7, 2002 6 days 21h
20 5S Sergei Zalyotin
Yuri Lonchakov
Frank De Winne
5S Crew October 30, 2002 183 days
21 11A James D. Wetherbee
Paul S. Lockhart
Michael E. Lopez-Alegria
John B. Herrington
Kenneth D. Bowersox
Donald R. Pettit
ikolai Budarin
11A Crew November 24, 2002 6 days 22h
22 6S Yuri Malenchenko
Edward T. Lu
6S Crew April 28, 2003 182 days
23 7S Alexander Kaleri
Michael Foale
Pedro Duque
7S Crew October 18, 2003 192 days
24 8S Gennady Padalka
Michael Fincke
André Kuipers
8S Crew April 19, 2004 185 days
25 9S Salizhan Sharipov
Leroy Chiao
Yuri Shargin
9S Crew October 14, 2004 190 days
26 10S Sergei Krikalev
John L. Phillips
Roberto Vittori
10S Crew April 15, 2005 179 days
27 LF1 Eileen M. Collins
James M. Kelly
Stephen K. Robinson
Andrew S. W. Thomas
Wendy B. Lawrence
Charles J. Camarda
Soichi Noguchi
LF1 Crew July 26, 2005 8 days 20h
28 11S Valery Tokarev
William S. McArthur
Gregory H. Olsen
11S Crew October 1, 2005 189 days
29 12S Pavel Vinogradov
Jeffrey N. Williams
Marcos Pontes
12S Crew March 30, 2006 180 days
30 ULF1.1 Steven W. Lindsey
Mark E. Kelly
Michael E. Fossum
Lisa M. Nowak
Stephanie D. Wilson
Piers J. Sellers
Thomas Reiter
ULF1.1 Crew July 4, 2006 8 days 19h
31 12A Brent W. Jett
Christopher J. Ferguson
Daniel C. Burbank
Heidemarie M. Stefanyshyn-Piper
Joseph R. Tanner
Steven G. MacLean
12A Crew September 9, 2006 6 days 2h
32 13S Mikhail Tyurin
Michael E. Lopez-Alegria
Anousheh Ansari
13S Crew September 18, 2006 215 days
33 12A.1 Mark L. Polansky
William A. Oefelein
Nicholas J. M. Patrick
Robert L. Curbeam
Joan E. Higginbotham
Christer Fuglesang
Sunita L. Williams
12A.1 Crew December 10, 2006 7 days 23h
34 14S Oleg Kotov
Fyodor Yurchikhin
Charles Simonyi
14S Crew April 7, 2007 196 days
35 13A Frederick W. Sturckow
Lee J. Archambault
Patrick G. Forrester
Steven R. Swanson
John D. Olivas
James F. Reilly
Clayton C. Anderson
13A Crew    
36 13A.1 Scott J. Kelly
Charles O. Hobaugh
Tracy E. Caldwell Dyson
Richard A. Mastracchio
Barbara R. Morgan
Benjamin A. Drew
Dafydd R. Williams
13A.1 Crew August 8, 2007 8 days 18h
37 15S Yuri Malenchenko
Peggy A. Whitson
Sheikh Muszaphar Shukor
15S Crew October 10, 2007 189 days
38 10A Pamela A. Melroy
George D. Zamka
Scott E. Parazynski
Stephanie D. Wilson
Douglas H. Wheelock
Paolo Nespoli
Daniel M. Tani
10A Crew October 23, 2007 10 days 22h
39 1E Stephen N. Frick
Alan G. Poindexter
Leland D. Melvin
Rex J. Walheim
Stanley G. Love
Hans Schlegel
Léopold Eyharts
1E Crew February 7, 2008 8 days 16h
40 1J/A Dominic L. Pudwill Gorie
Gregory H. Johnson
Robert L. Behnken
Michael J. Foreman
Richard M. Linnehan
Takao Doi
Garrett E. Reisman
1J/A Crew March 11, 2008 11 days 21h
41 16S Sergei Volkov
Oleg Kononenko
Yi So Yeon
16S Crew April 8, 2008 198 days
42 1J Mark E. Kelly
Kenneth T. Ham
Karen L. Nyberg
Ronald J. Garan
Michael E. Fossum
Akihiko Hoshide
Gregory E. Chamitoff
1J Crew May 31, 2008 8 days 17h
43 17S Yuri Lonchakov
Michael Fincke
Richard A. Garriott
17S Crew October 12, 2008 164 days
44 ULF2 Christopher J. Ferguson
Eric A. Boe
Donald R. Pettit
Stephen G. Bowen
Heidemarie M. Stefanyshyn-Piper
Robert S. Kimbrough
Sandra H. Magnus
ULF2 Crew November 15, 2008 11 days 16h
45 15A Lee J. Archambault
Dominic A. Antonelli
Joseph M. Acaba
Steven R. Swanson
Richard R. Arnold
John L. Phillips
Koichi Wakata
15A Crew March 15, 2009 8 days 22h
 46 18S Gennady Padalka
Michael R. Barratt
Charles Simonyi
  March 26, 2009 197 days
 47 19S Roman Romanenko
Frank de Winne
Robert B. Thirsk
19S Crew May 27, 2009 186 days
 48 2J/A Mark L. Polansky
Douglas G. Hurley
Christopher J. Cassidy
Thomas H. Marshburn
David A. Wolf
Julie Payette
Timothy L. Kopra
2J/A Crew July 15, 2009 11 days 1h
 49 17A Frederick W. Sturckow
Kevin A. Ford
Patrick G. Forrester
Jose M. Hernández
John D. Olivas
Christer Fuglesang
Nicole P. Stott
17A Crew August 29, 2009 9 days 19h
 50 20S Maksim Surayev
Jeffrey N. Williams
Guy Laliberté
20S Crew September 30, 2009 167 days
 51 ULF3 Charles O. Hobaugh
Barry E. Wilmore
Michael J. Foreman
Randolph J. Bresnik
Leland D. Melvin
Robert L. Satcher
ULF3 Crew November 16, 2009 6 days 17h
 52 21S Oleg Kotov
Timothy J. Creamer
Soichi Noguchi
21S Crew December 20, 2009 162 days
 53 20A George D. Zamka
Terry W. Virts
Kathryn P. Hire
Stephen K. Robinson
Nicholas J. M. Patrick
Robert L. Behnken
20A Crew February 8, 2010 9 days 19h
 54 22S Aleksandr Skvortsov
Mikhail Korniyenko
Tracy E. Caldwell Dyson
iss54 April 2, 2010 174 days
 55 19A Alan G. Poindexter
James P. Dutton
Richard A. Mastracchio
Clayton C. Anderson
Dorothy M. Metcalf-Lindenburger
Stephanie D. Wilson
Naoko Yamazaki
19A Crew April 5, 2010 10 days 5h
 56 ULF4 Kenneth T. Ham
Dominic A. Antonelli
Stephen G. Bowen
Michael T. Good
Piers J. Sellers
Garrett E. Reisman
ULF4 Crew May 14, 2010 7 days 1h
 57 23S Fyodor Yurchikhin
Douglas H. Wheelock
Shannon Walker
iss57 June 15, 2010 162 days
 58 24S Alexander Kaleri
Oleg Skripochka
Scott J. Kelly
24S Crew October 7, 2010 158 days
 59 25S Dimitri Kondratyev
Catherine G. Coleman
Paolo Nespoli
25S Crew December 15, 2010 158 days
 60 ULF5 Steven W. Lindsey
Eric A. Boe
Benjamin A. Drew
Michael R. Barratt
Stephen G. Bowen
Nicole P. Stott
ULF5 Crew February 24, 2011 8 days 14h
 61 26S Aleksandr Samokutyayev
Andrei Borisenko
Ronald J. Garan
26S Crew April 4, 2011 162 days
 62 ULF6 Mark E. Kelly
Gregory H. Johnson
Michael Fincke
Gregory E. Chamitoff
Andrew J. Feustel
Roberto Vittori
 ULF6 Crew May 16, 2011 11 days 18h
 63 27S Sergey Volkov
Michael E. Fossum
Satoshi Furukawa
27S Crew June 7, 2011 165 days
 64 ULF7 Christopher J. Ferguson
Douglas G. Hurley
Sandra H. Magnus
Rex J. Walheim
ULF7 Crew July 8, 2011 8 days 15h
 65 28S Anton Shkaplerov
Anatoli Ivanishin
Daniel C. Burbank
28S Crew November 14, 2011 163 days
 66 29S Oleg Kononenko
Donald R. Pettit
André Kuipers
29S Crew December 21, 2011 193 days
 67 30S Gennady Padalka
Sergei Revin
Joseph M. Acaba
30S Crew May 15, 2012 123 days
 68 31S Yuri Malenchenko
Sunita L. Williams
Akihiko Hoshide
31S Crew July 15, 2012 125 days
 69 32S Oleg Novitskiy
Evgeny Tarelkin
Kevin A. Ford
32S Crew October 23, 2012 142 days
 70 33S Roman Romanenko
Thomas H. Marshburn
Chris A. Hadfield
33S Crew December 19, 2012 145 days
 71 34S Pavel Vinogradov
Aleksandr Misurkin
Christopher J. Cassidy
34S Crew March 28, 2013 166 days
 72 35S Fyodor Yurchikhin
Karen L. Nyberg
Luca Parmitano
35S Crew May 28, 2013 166 days
 73 36S leg Kotov
Sergey Ryazansky
Michael S. Hopkins
36S Crew September 25, 2013 166 days
 74 37S Mikhail Tyurin
Richard A. Mastracchio
Koichi Wakata
37S Crew November 7, 2013 187 days
 75 38S Aleksandr Skvortsov
Oleg Artemyev
Steven R. Swanson
38S Crew March 25, 2014 167 days
 76 39S aksim Surayev
Gregory R. Wiseman
Alexander Gerst
39S Crew May 28, 2014 165 days
 77 40S Aleksandr Samokutyayev
Yelena Serova
Barry E. Wilmore
40S Crew September 25, 2014 166 days
 78 41S Anton Shkaplerov
Samantha Cristoforetti
Terry W. Virts
41S Crew November 23, 2014 199 days
 79  42S Gennady Padalka
Mikhail Korniyenko
Scott J. Kelly
42S Crew 27 March 2015 168 days
 80  43S Oleg Kononenko
Kimiya Yui
Kjell N. Lindgren
43S Crew 22 July 2015 141 days
 81 44S Sergey Volkov
Andreas Mogensen
Aidyn Aimbetov
44S Crew 2 September 2015 180 days
 82 45S Yuri Malenchenko
Timothy Peake
Timothy L. Kopra
45S Crew 15 December 2015 185 days
 83 46S Aleksey Ovchinin
Oleg Skripochka
Jeffrey N. Williams
46S Crew 18 March 2016 171 days
84 47S Anatoli Ivanishin
Takuya Onishi
Kathleen Rubins
47S Crew 7 July 2016 113 days
 85 48S Sergey N. Ryzhikov
Andrei Borisenko
Robert S. Kimbrough
48S Crew 19 October 2016 171 days
 86 49S Oleg Novitskiy
Thomas Pesquet
Peggy Whitson
49S Crew 17 November 2016 194 days
 87   Fyodor Yurchikhin
Jack D. Fischer
50S Crew 20 April 2017 135 days
 88 51S Sergey Ryazansky
Randy Bresnik
Paolo Nespoli
51S Crew 28 July 2017 139 days
 89 52S Alexander Misurkin
Mark Vande Hei
Joseph Acaba
52S Crew 12 September 2017 168 days
90 53S Anton Shkaplerov
Norishige Kanai
Scott D. Tingle
53S Crew 17 December 2017 166 days
  Current        
 91 54S Oleg Artemyev
Andrew J. Feustel
Richard R. Arnold
54S Crew 21 March 2018 Since 23 March 2018
 92 55S Sergey Prokopyev
Serena M. Auñón-Chancellor
Alexander Gerst
55S Crew 06 June 2018  

 

 

 

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