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Space stations past and present

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The Worldwide Area Station (ISS) is now 20 years previous. On this put up I’ll speak concerning the historical past of the ISS and different house stations, and I’ll additionally contact on a few of the politics concerned.

Picture from NASA


Early house stations


Though America was the primary nation to place a person on the Moon, the Soviet Union led the way in which in lengthy length spaceflights and was the primary nation to launch an area station, the place people might  stay and work for longer durations of time. Earlier than the arrival of house stations, astronauts have been confined to cramped house capsules.

The primary ever house station Salyut 1 was launched into house in April 1971. It weighed almost 20 tonnes and had a pressurised quantity of 100 cubic metres, by which cosmonauts might stay and work. This was vastly greater than earlier spacecraft. For comparability, the command module by which the Apollo astronauts have been confined on their journeys to the Moon had a pressurised quantity of solely 6.2 cubic metres. Salyut was a single module house station; the complete construction was put into orbit without delay. There was no in-orbit meeting.


A Soviet Soyuz spacecraft about to dock with Salyut – picture from NASA.

Word: An precise photograph of Salyut 1 in orbit, taken by one of many Soyuz 11 cosmonauts as he departed, might be considered at: http://www.astronautix.com/graphics/s/sal1foto.jpg

Three cosmonauts from Soyuz 11 visited Salyut 1 throughout the next June and stayed there for a report breaking 24 days. Sadly, the mission led to a tragic accident. Within the early Soyuz spaceflights, the capsule the cosmonauts returned to Earth in was so small that there wasn’t sufficient room for them to put on cumbersome spacesuits and the related life assist gear. This sadly led to the deaths of the Soyuz 11 cosmonauts throughout re-entry into the Earth’s environment. Though the spacecraft landed again on Earth efficiently, the cosmonauts died of lack of oxygen when a defective valve induced all of the air to escape from their capsule. Had they been carrying spacesuits they might have survived.


Commemorative Soviet 4 kopek stamp exhibiting the Soyuz 11 spacecraft docked to Salyut 1 and the ill-fated crew.


After Salyut 1, the Soviets launched six additional Salyut house stations, the ultimate one Salyut 7 being launched in 1982. Salyut 6 and Salyut 7 had a further docking port to permit unmanned spacecraft to carry provides. This enabled cosmonauts to remain within the station for longer durations. Cosmonauts in Salyut 6 and seven might stay in house for as much as seven months at a time.


In 1973 the American launched their very own house station, Skylab. Like Salyut, Skylab was a single module construction requiring no meeting in orbit. Skylab was visited by three separate missions and the ultimate crew stayed for 84 days. After the final crew had left, Skylab was deserted and America launched no additional house stations. With a restricted funds, the main focus of the American manned house programme was on creating the Area Shuttle.



The ultimate Skylab crew – picture from NASA. A mannequin of Skylab is within the background.


Bigger house stations

In 1986 the subsequent advance in house station design came about when the Soviet Union launched Mir. Mir was too massive to launch into orbit in a single go. It was assembled from seven completely different modules, every launched into orbit individually. Between 1986 and 2000 twenty-eight completely different manned spacecraft visited Mir.  In a brand new period of worldwide collaboration Mir was visited by travellers from nations apart from the Soviet Union. The report for the longest time a human has spent constantly in house, 438 days, was set aboard Mir in 1994 -1995 by Valeri Polyakov and nonetheless stands at the moment. I believe that, as extra turns into identified concerning the adverse results of lengthy length spaceflight on the human physique, this report won’t be overwhelmed for a very long time.


Mir-image from NASA


Freedom and the beginning of the ISS


Throughout the early 1980s many within the US authorities have been involved that the Soviet Union was clearly forward of America in long-duration manned spaceflight. Right now, the Area Shuttle programme was effectively over-budget, years not on time and the shuttle might solely assist astronauts staying in house for a number of weeks. In his 1984 State of the Union tackle, President Ronald Reagan introduced that America would constructed its personal house station throughout the decade. It was later given the identify ‘Freedom’, and was supposed to provide America a permanently-manned presence in house.


 Picture from Wikimedia widespread


Giant house programmes almost all the time become extra complicated and costly than initially anticipated. When Reagan made his announcement, America had already dedicated a big sum of money to the Area Shuttle programme (which might ultimately value, in 2018 , over $200 billion).  Throughout the late 1980s and early 1990s, as design work on Freedom proceeded, the prices started to escalate, and the deadlines slipped. To attempt to carry the undertaking again on monitor its scope was lower and, to cut back the associated fee to the US taxpayer, discussions have been had with Europeans nations about bringing them in as companions. In the long run, Congress wouldn’t approve the cash to hold Freedom ahead and the undertaking was stopped.

Nevertheless, by the early 1990s the political local weather had modified, with the top of the Chilly Struggle and the Soviet Union having ceased to exist. So, somewhat than being rivals in house, the Russian and American governments determined in 1993 to collaborate within the constructing of the subsequent house station. They have been joined by Japan, Canada, Brazil and the nations from the European Area Company (ESA).

January 29, 1998 was an essential milestone for the Worldwide Area Station. On this date senior authorities officers from 15 nations met in Washington and signed agreements establishing the framework for cooperation on the design, growth and operation of the Worldwide Area Station.



Picture from NASA


As mentioned in my previous post,  within the November after the settlement was signed the primary module of the ISS, Zarya, was launched. Two years later, in November 2000, the primary crew arrived, and the ISS has been manned ever since. Since that date, a complete of 232 completely different people have visited from 18 completely different nations.


Taken from https://www.nasa.gov/feature/visitors-to-the-station-by-country


Various them have been lucky sufficient to have visited the ISS two or extra instances and the Russian cosmonaut Fyodor Yorikiri, proven under, holds the report for many visits having been there on 5 events.

Picture from NASA


Coverage on China

One nation lacking from the listing of nations concerned within the ISS is China. From the start, at American insistence, it has been excluded from any participation within the ISS. The reason being that America fears the army nature of the Chinese language house programme. In 2011 Congress handed a legislation prohibiting any official American contact with the Chinese language house program, citing nationwide safety considerations.  This coverage has hardened over latest years and NASA presently prohibits any of its engineers or scientists from working with China. Consequently, China is creating its personal house station as a part of its manned house programme. China has already efficiently launched two small single module house stations, Tiangong 1 and a pair of, which have been visited by Chinese language astronauts.

It’s planning to launch a a lot bigger house station in 2022 and the ability will probably be open to international astronauts. Apparently, the European Area Company already has an agreement with China to ship astronauts to the Chinese language house station as soon as it’s operational.

Particulars are sketchy for the time being, however the brand new Chinese language house station is predicted to include a core module and two laboratory cabins, massive sufficient to accommodate three to 6 astronauts.


Prices of the ISS

One criticism usually levelled on the ISS is its excessive prices. The annual working value of the ISS has been estimated in a latest NASA report as $Three-Four billion every year , which is half of NASA’s human spaceflight funds. Nevertheless, the overall prices of constructing the Worldwide Area station are complicated to estimate. That is for a number of causes:

  • Spending on the early design work on Freedom, a few of which turned used within the ISS, began in 1985. It’s unclear how a lot of this early work ought to be included. Additionally, this spending within the earlier years must be closely adjusted upwards for inflation.
  • A lot of the ISS was constructed by ferrying elements with the Area Shuttle. So, along with the prices of the elements, the prices of the 36 Shuttle missions, which value $1.6 billion EACH, ought to be taken under consideration.
  • The full contribution by the Soviet Union, and its successor state Russia, is unclear.


An article on the ESA website in 2013 quoted a determine of 100 billion Euros (roughly $120 billion) however doesn’t give any breakdown of the way it was arrived at. It estimates the European share at eight billion Euros (roughly $10 billion)

When the ISS was nearing completion a examine by Lafleur in 2010, usually quoted by the US media, estimated that the overall value (in 2010 ) of the ISS from 1985 to 2015 could be $150 billion. This equates to $175 billion in at the moment’s cash.


Lafleur broke down his determine as follows:

  • $12 billion from Russia
  • $5 billion from Europe (about half the determine quoted on ESA web site)
  • $5 billion from Japan
  • $2 billion from Canada
  • $124 billion from the US, which incorporates $50 billion for the 36 Shuttle flights

Though Brazil signed the ISS treaty, it later withdrew from the programme and Lafleur ignored its small contribution.


I feel that though the true value of ISS won’t ever be precisely identified, one factor that it’s sure is that it’s the costliest single construction ever constructed by mankind!


Subsequent put up


I hope you’ve loved this put up. In my subsequent put up I’ll discuss the way forward for the ISS.

  • How lengthy will it final?
  • How lengthy will the US taxpayer proceed to fund it?
  • What will probably be its substitute?




Lafleur, C (2010) Prices of US piloted packages, Accessible at: http://www.thespacereview.com/article/1579/1 (Accessed: 27 Sept 2018).



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Future wars is what I am looking for with Space force.

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