Category The Story of Manned Space Stations


Early in 1969, the Soviets laid claim to having formed the first space laboratory with the docking of two manned spacecraft, the first in history. Soyuz 4 with Vladimir Shatalov on board was launched on 14 January. Soyuz 5 was to follow 24 hours later, the delay being to allow time for Shatalov to acclimatize to orbital conditions before attempting the docking. Soyuz 5 had a crew of three, commander Boris Volynov, and flight engineers Aleksei Yeliseyez and Yevgeni Khrunov. The docking was handled manually by both commanders, and was achieved flawlessly; the first docking of two manned spacecraft. However, appearances can be deceptive. Whilst the two space­craft were physically docked together, it was not possible for the crews to float through the hatches on the nose of the connected orbital modules. Transfer between the two spacecraft was only possible by way of Extravehicular Activity (EVA), or “spacewalking” as it is more popularly known, making use of the side hatches in the orbital modules of both craft. This EVA was a necessary test of the method that


Shatalov describes Soyuz 4 and 5 docking

would be used by a cosmonaut during a Soviet Moon-landing mission. The Soviet lander also had no internal hatch to allow transfer between the vehicles. Yeliseyez and Khrunov carried out the EVA successfully and returned to Earth with Shatalov on board Soyuz 4. Volynov returned with Soyuz 5 alone. Volynov’s re-entry was not without incident, however. He failed to orientate his spacecraft prior to entry, and to add to his problems the propulsion module had not separated completely from his descent module, which caused the spacecraft to tumble and face the wrong way for re­entry. Just as Volynov thought that disaster was near, the module separated, and his descent module turned to face the right way. His problems were not over yet; the parachute lines then began to tangle, but fortunately sorted themselves out before the parachutes had fully inflated, and he landed successfully, although much harder than normal, he broke free from his harness, and broke several of his front teeth against the opposite bulkhead. He staggered from his capsule and found a peasant’s hut where the occupants cared for him until help arrived; he was grounded for two years.

It had not been a long duration flight by any means, and the spacecraft remained docked for only four and a half hours, but it had been a successful prelude to manned dockings with orbital space stations, if not perhaps the world’s first space laboratory.

The International Space Station… at last

Looking at NASA’s recent history of trying to build a space station, the casual viewer might think it a miracle that anything ever got off the ground, but this would be an unfair assessment. NASA did its best in an ever changing political world, both at home and abroad, and through several different presidencies and administrators. In some ways, the agency was its own worst enemy; its designs were always leading edge and therefore very expensive and time consuming to build, and therefore unlikely to be approved by Congress in times of financial constraint.

However, in 1998 the first hardware of the International Space Station (ISS) stood ready. After almost 14 years of political turmoil, numerous redesigns, and countless billions of dollars, NASA and its partners were finally ready to launch hardware into space. These first components were the Russian FGB, or Functional Cargo Block, called Zarya, which was a module that would give the early station attitude control, and the U. S. Node 1, or Unity, which was a connecting module to allow for further expansion of the station. Zarya, which was based on the TKS design from Chelomei’s design bureau back in 1969, was launched in November 1998 on a Russian Proton rocket, and was followed by the space shuttle Endeavour on mission STS-88 in December. The crew connected the two modules together, and carried out spacewalks to electrically link the modules, Sergei Krikalev was a mission specialist on this crew, as well as being a member of the planned first expedition. STS-96 followed in May 1999 with supplies for the first expedition, and carried out further spacewalks to “get ahead’’ before the Russian Service Module was launched.

January 2000 saw a seemingly unrelated meeting of Congress that created the Iran Non-Proliferation Act. In short this act disallowed any U. S. companies or organizations (including government agencies) from paying money to any country helping Iran with its nuclear program. Russia is one such country. On the face of it, this did not seem of any concern to the ISS program which was still early in its construction, and early too in its partnership with Russia. NASA already had a contract with Russia to provide 11 Soyuz and Progress spacecraft for crew rotation

The International Space Station... at last

Proton launching Zarya

The International Space Station... at last

Expedition 1 crew

and cargo delivery to the ISS that would last until April 2006. This contract was exempt from the new act as it had been agreed before the act’s creation. It surely would not become a problem later, because NASA planned to have its own Crew Return Vehicle in place by then, and the European Space Agency (ESA) was creating its own cargo delivery system (the Automated Transfer Vehicle) which was due to be ready before that date.

As the Service Modules’ delays increased, it was decided to fly another shuttle logistics mission, STS-101, in May 2000 to bring further supplies. The much delayed Service Module, Zvezda, was launched in July 2000, and docked with the orbiting Unity/Zarya combination. A Progress craft M1-3 docked at Zvezda’s rear port shortly after and replenished the fuel that had been used during the launch and docking procedures. The space shuttle Atlantis was launched in September on mis­sion STS-106 to carry out the final outfitting of Zvezda prior to the arrival of Expedition 1; Atlantis also fired its engines to raise the orbit of the fledgling station. STS-92 launched in October with the first element of the truss assembly, and an additional docking port to be attached to the Unity module, and Discovery’s engines further raised the ISS orbit before it left.

Finally, the station was ready to receive its first crew. Soyuz-TM 31 was launched on 31 October 2000 carrying Soyuz commander Yuri Gidzenko, Expedition 1 com­mander William Shepherd and flight engineer Sergei Krikalev.

They docked with the station on 2 November, and entered shortly after. They were restricted to the two Russian modules initially, as there was not enough power

The International Space Station... at last

Proton launching Zvezda

available to facilitate the use of Unity. The space shuttle Endeavour brought that additional power in the form of the first solar array truss, on the mission STS-97 in December 2000, and over the next few days the two huge solar arrays were deployed, and the internal and external connections made to enable the flow of power to the station.

The next major component of the ISS, the Destiny research laboratory, was launched aboard STS-98 on 7 February 2001 and connected to the station on the 10 February. Spacewalks were carried out to facilitate external connections between Destiny and Unity, and Atlantis raised the ISS orbit before leaving.

The Expedition 1 crew moved their Soyuz from the rear port of Zvezda to the downward or nadir (Earth-facing) port of Zarya, thus freeing the rear port for more Progress dockings. The first crew’s stay was nearly at an end, and when Discovery was launched on STS-102 with the Expedition 2 crew aboard it was time for NASA’s first crew rotation of the ISS program. The new crew consisted of commander Yuri Usachev, and flight engineers Susan Helms and James Voss. The rotation plan called for a rather complex one-at-a-time swap of crewmembers from ISS to the shuttle.

The International Space Station... at last

The International Space Station... at last

The International Space Station... at last

STS-98 crew in an unusual pose

This routine was dropped on later crew rotation missions. STS-102 landed on the 21 March ending the first expedition to the ISS.

In April 2001 Endeavour was launched on mission STS-100, bringing the Cana­dian robotic arm to the station. The Canadarm-2 was vital to future station con­struction and operations, so this was an important mission; all was not to go smoothly, however. On the night of 24 April one of the command and control computers on board the ISS went offline unexpectedly, and the crew was woken to troubleshoot the problem, causing NASA to extend Endeavour’s mission by two days, and thereby conflicting with the upcoming first Soyuz “taxi” mission to replace the ISS Soyuz with a new one. The Russians agreed that the taxi Soyuz would be launched on time assuming that by the time it arrived at the station, the shuttle would be gone. If Endeavour was still there, as it was, then the Soyuz would remain in formation with the ISS. The Canadarm-2 passed its first tests successfully, but there were still lingering doubts over some of the computer systems on the ISS. However, Endeavour undocked and left the station on 29 April, leaving the way clear for

The International Space Station... at last

Expedition 3 crew

Soyuz-TM 32, or EP-1 as the Russians called the mission. This mission was already controversial because of the inclusion of Dennis Tito, the first space tourist, on the crew. NASA argued that he was unqualified, especially on NASA systems, and therefore a danger to the station; the Russians countered that he was bringing valuable revenue to their space program, and therefore indispensable. It was finally agreed that Tito would limit himself to the Russian modules unless escorted by a U. S. crewmember; in reality Tito was happy to listen to music and gaze out of the windows in Zvezda during his six days aboard the station, but he did help out by preparing meals and doing odd jobs for the resident crew. Problems with the Canadarm-2 persisted, and the launch of the next shuttle mission was postponed, as it would require the use of the arm to install the first dedicated airlock module, called Quest, on the station. STS-104 was launched with the Quest airlock in July, and it was successfully installed without any major problems.

STS-105 followed in August with the next crew rotation, Expedition 3, comman­der Frank Culbertson, Soyuz commander Vladimir Dezhurov, and flight engineer Mikhail Tyurin. After all of the trials of the Phase 1 program, Culbertson made it back into space, eight years after his commanded shuttle mission STS-51. This crew would have the distinction of being the only humans in orbit during the 9/11 terrorist attacks, and it soon emerged that Culbertson had gone to flight school with the pilot of the airliner, Chic Burlingame, that hit the Pentagon. He wrote a letter home about the attack that was published on the NASA ISS website, in which he concluded “What a terrible loss, but I’m sure Chic was fighting bravely to the end. And tears don’t flow the same in space…’’

The next taxi mission, Soyuz-TM 33, arrived on the 23 October, carrying the crew of Viktor Afanasiev, flight engineer Konstantin Kazeev and French astronaut Claudie Haignere. This crew spent eight days on board the ISS, where Haignere performed experiments for ESA under the Andromeda program before the crew’s return in the older Soyuz-TM 32 spacecraft that had been docked to the ISS since the end of April.

STS-108 carried the Expedition 4 crew of commander Yuri Onufrienko and flight engineers Dan Bursch and Carl Walz to the station on the 7 December, and left on the 15 December. This crew had a fairly quiet time, apart from the failure of a wrist joint on the stations robot arm, and had not received any visitors until Atlantis arrived with a new segment for the truss element of the station in April 2002.

The third taxi mission, Soyuz-TM 34, docked on the 27 April, with the crew of Russian commander Yuri Gidzenko, and Italian researcher for ESA, Roberto Vittori. It also included the second space tourist in its crew. This time there was no controversy. South African Mark Shuttleworth had been completely trained on all aspects of station operations, both Russian and U. S., and had a scientific program to work through. This mission was to be the last launch of a Soyuz-TM spacecraft; the next launch would be the newer Soyuz-TMA version. Of course, the older Soyuz – TM 34 would remain docked to the ISS as the emergency crew return vehicle until it was replaced by the newer version. Again, the taxi crew spent eight days on board the station before leaving in the older Soyuz-TM 33 spacecraft on the 5 April.

In 2002 NASA canceled both the CRV (Crew Return Vehicle) and the ISS Habitation module. At a stroke this immediately reduced the maximum crew of the ISS to three, as this is obviously the number of crew that a Soyuz can carry. Without the Habitation module there would be nowhere for additional crew mem­bers to eat and sleep. By doing this, NASA broke several agreements with its International partners and created a great deal of ill feeling within the scientific community as it was fully realized that it took at least two crewmembers full-time just to keep the station running, this leaving barely one crewmember to carry out any science at all. Certainly it would not be possible for any international astronauts to now fly to the station to tend their own experiments, as there would be no room for them to live aboard, the station. The obvious choice in the short term would be to make use of more Russian Soyuz and Progress spacecraft, but this was not possible. All of a sudden the Iran Non-proliferation Act which had seemed unimportant a year ago was thrown into sharp relief. NASA could not buy anymore of anything from Russia without breaking the law. However, the end of that contract was still five years away, and the shuttle would be able to pick up any slack until then, wouldn’t it? In the meantime, NASA planned to go ahead with development of the Orbital Space Plane (OSP) concept, although this would not be ready until at least 2008.

I’m sure you are beginning to see a pattern forming by now. Every NASA plan would be first put on hold, and then canceled, to be replaced by something even more expensive, and even further into the reaches of time, after they had already spent way over their budget on the first project. The OSP project was canceled in 2004, and replaced by the new Crew Exploration Vehicle (CEV), of which, more later.

On 5 June 2002, STS-111 was launched with the Expedition 5 crew of Valery Korzun, Peggy Whitson, and Sergei Treschev. Whitson was flying in the newly created role of NASA Science Officer. This was seen as something of an appeasement to the science community, who argued that not enough science was being carried out on the ISS. When Endeavour landed ending the Expedition 4 mission, Bursch and Walz had set a new U. S. duration record of 195 days. During the mission of Expedition 5, the space shuttle fleet was temporarily grounded by the discovery of cracks in the hydrogen lines for the main engines. The problem was fixable, but delayed all subsequent shuttle missions. Therefore, it was not until October that Atlantis was launched on STS-112 with more components for the truss segment, plus supplies for the resident crew.

At the beginning of November, the next taxi mission, Soyuz-TMA 1, docked with the station, originally the EP-4 crew was to have included American singer Lance Bass, but not all of the money for his flight was forthcoming, and the Russians were strict. He was replaced by Russian cosmonaut Yuri Lonchakov. The rest of the crew consisted of commander Sergei Zalyotin, and ESA astronaut Frank De Winne of Belgium who would carry out a program of experiments for ESA. The taxi crew returned to Earth in Soyuz-TM 34, leaving the new Soyuz-TMA 1 for the resident crew.

STS-113 arrived at the station at the end of November 2002 with another truss segment, and the Expedition 6 crew. The new ISS crew included commander Ken Bowersox and flight engineers Don Pettit and Nikolai Budarin, with Pettit also taking on the role of NASA Science Officer. Budarin had flown twice before to the Mir space station, including a launch on the U. S. shuttle Atlantis on STS-71. Bowersox had flown on the U. S. shuttle four times previously; twice as pilot, and twice as com­mander. Pettit was making his first space flight on Expedition 6, replacing Don Thomas who had to stand down for medical reasons. The crew of STS-113 had also undergone a crew change when the original pilot Gus Loria was replaced by Paul Lockhart, who had just flown on STS-111, when Loria injured his back at home which caused him to miss too much training time. Both of these changes required new mission patches for both STS-113 and Expedition 6, which made the original STS – 113 patch with Loria and Thomas on it a rare item.

On the 1 February 2003 NASA’s worst nightmare scenario came to pass. The space shuttle Columbia was destroyed during re-entry, after a non-ISS scientific mission. The reasons for Columbia’s tragic loss have been well documented elsewhere and need not be repeated. However, the loss would have massive implications for the immediate future of the ISS, its future beyond April 2006, and indeed the future of NASA itself.

The big date that NASA had been aiming at for the last couple of years was 19 February 2004. This was the date that the station would be triumphantly pro­claimed to be “U. S. Core Complete”, which was to say that certain key U. S. modules (including the important Node 2) would be connected to the station, and NASA could progress to fulfilling its promises to its international partners to launch their modules to the station. ESA and Japan in particular were keen to get their Columbus and Kibo (respectively) science modules launched and docked to the station after many delays.

Clearly, immediate changes to operations would need to be made, starting with the very next expedition. With Expedition 6 only just settled on the station, any changes were not urgent in nature, apart from the question of how best to get that crew home. Originally, they had been scheduled to be swapped with the Expedition 7 crew at that time consisting of commander Yuri Malenchenko, Sergei Moschenko and NASA’s Edward Lu, who would fly up on shuttle mission STS-114. However, changes to the personnel of Expedition 7 were taking place even before the Columbia accident. Sergei Moschenko was replaced by Aleksandr Kaleri, apparently because Moschenko’s English was not up to scratch.

On 1 April 2003, exactly two months after the Columbia accident, it was announced by NASA that the Expedition 7 crew would be reduced from three to two, and would consist of commander Malenchenko and NASA Science Officer and flight engineer Lu. Kaleri was bumped to back-up the flight of Expedition 7, and would later fly on board Expedition 8 with NASA’s Michael Foale in command. The reduction of crew from three to two would help to reduce the demands on the station’s food and water supply which would now only be replenished by Progress freighters, which could not carry anything like as much cargo as the shuttle. The crew rotations would now be carried out using the Soyuz-TMA spacecraft, which meant that the taxi missions were on hold for now, blocking a source of income for the Russians.

Therefore, on 26 April 2003 Soyuz-TMA 2 was launched with the two-man Expedition 7 crew of Malenchenko and Lu, replacing Bowersox, Pettit, and Budarin, who would return to Earth aboard Soyuz-TMA 1. Their return was not entirely straightforward, as the crew landed 460 km short of their target due to a computer error which commanded the capsule into a ballistic re-entry path, subjecting the crew to higher g loads than normal.

Soyuz-TMA 3 launched with the Expedition 8 crew of Foale and Kaleri in October 2003, with the Expedition 7 crew coming home in the older Soyuz-TMA 2. Foale now commanded a space station after his eventful flight aboard Mir. This expedition was trouble-free by comparison. This process was repeated in April 2004 with the launch of Soyuz-TMA 4 with the Expedition 9 crew of Gennady Padalka and Michael Fincke. The Expedition 10 crew of Leroy Chiao and Salizhan Sharipov were launched to the station on board Soyuz-TMA 5 on 14 October 2004. The pair stayed on board the ISS for 192 days and landed back on Earth on 24 April 2005 after enduring many ongoing problems with the station’s Elektron oxygen generating system. Sharipov attempted repairs for many days but the system was still offline and awaited the efforts of the Expedition 11 crew of Sergei Krikalev and John Philips.

On 26 July 2005 the space shuttle returned to flight after two and half years on the ground. The flight of STS-114 Discovery was a life saver to the ISS program as it relieved so many problems at once. The replacement CMG that had failed so long ago would be repaired, and the gathering rubbish and clutter on board the station would be greatly reduced by the Raffaelo module due to be delivered by Discovery which would also bring desperately needed new supplies including food and water. Following missions would restart the construction process. Unfortunately, that all fell flat after about a minute and a half of flight, when it became apparent that the fixes to the external tank (ET) of the shuttle were not all that NASA had hoped they would be. Newly installed cameras showed a large piece of foam from the ET falling away as the solid rocket boosters (SRB) separated. The chunk of foam missed Discovery, but it was quickly realized that it could have inflicted just as much damage as that visited upon Columbia two and a half years earlier. Although Discovery continued with her mission, the shuttle was once again grounded until further notice pending the solution to the foam problem. When Discovery reached the ISS it carried out a pre-planned pitch over maneuvre so that the crew on board the ISS could photograph Discovery’s underside to check for missing and/or damaged tiles. Unfor­tunately, many damaged tiles were discovered, seeming to prove beyond doubt that the external tank foam problem was just as bad as ever, and that re-grounding the shuttle was the right thing to do. The next shuttle mission, STS-121, was postponed until at least May 2006, after the deadline for NASA’s existing agreement with Russia for Soyuz had run out.

The Expedition 12 crew of Bill McArthur and Valery Tokarev were launched to the station on 1 October 2005 on board Soyuz-TMA 7 along with space tourist Greg Olsen. The new residents were relieved by Expedition 13 in March 2006. On 11 October 2005, Soyuz TMA-6 landed with the crew of Expedition 11, and space tourist Greg Olsen. Sergei Krikalev and John Philips had spent 179 days in space, and Krikalev was now the most travelled cosmonaut or astronaut in history with a grand total of 803 days in orbit from his two missions to Mir, two space shuttle flights, and two stays aboard the ISS.

On 26 October 2005, the House of Representatives came to NASA’s rescue when it voted to allow the space agency exemption from the Iran Non­Proliferation Act. This meant that they could buy Soyuz and Progress spacecraft from Russia until 2012. This allowed NASA to concentrate on finishing construction of the station without having to deliver new crews on the shuttle as well, and assured U. S. astronauts access to the ISS. All future crew rotations were to be carried out by the Soyuz craft, and cargo delivered by the Progress, with much heavier items being lifted into orbit by the shuttle once it finally returned to flight. Certainly this would prove to be much more cost effective for NASA as each Soyuz flight costs in the region of only $65 million, instead of at least $500 million for each shuttle launch.

The date 1 November 2005 marked an important day in the history of the ISS. The station had been continually occupied for 1,826 days, or 5 years. Since the first crew’s arrival, the ISS had grown considerably and now weighed 183 tonnes, with a habitable volume of 424m3; by comparison Skylab weighed 90 tonnes with a volume of 361 m3, and Russia’s Mir weighed 110 tonnes with a volume of 380 m3. There had been 97 visitors on board the station from 10 countries; and 29 had lived aboard as

The International Space Station... at last

The International Space Station... at last

Expedition 13 patch without and with Reiter’s name and German nag

members of the 12 station expedition crews. Russian cosmonaut Sergei Krikalev was the only one so far to have served as a member of two resident crews.

On the 7 December 2005 the crew of Expedition 13 was announced, and consisted of station commander Pavel Vinogradov and U. S. astronaut Jeffrey Williams, they were to be joined on Soyuz TMA-8 by Brazilian Marco Pontes, who had trained at NASA as a mission specialist for a time until the agreement with Brazil for ISS components had been discontinued. He was to stay about one week.

It was not until July 2006 that STS-121 finally got off the ground, almost a year since the less-successful-than-hoped STS-114. This mission had originally been sched­uled as a somewhat anti-climatic follow up to STS-114; it would simply repeat and revalidate most of the feats of the previous mission. It had not existed in the original pre-Columbia flight schedule, and had been added to reinforce the fact that the shuttle was once again safe to fly, hence its “out of sequence’’ numbering. However, after the failure of STS-114 to completely validate the new foam application process on the ET, the mission took on a new importance, rather than being just a follow-up, it would be an important milestone in proving the shuttle to be fit for purpose. It would also deliver a new crewmember to the ISS, bringing the permanent crew up to a full strength of three for the first time since Expedition 6. Thomas Reiter of the ESA would also be the first long-time crewmember from outside the U. S. or Russia.

The foam failures on STS-114 had come from an area of the tank that contained the attachment points for the SRBs, specifically, from an aerodynamic ramp in front of the attachments. NASA engineers had come to the conclusion that the best solution would be to remove those ramps completely, and remove the risk of foam shedding at the same time. However, these ramps had been previously thought to be essential aerodynamic aids for launch, and some were nervous about what effect their removal might have. On 4 July 2006, all worries were laid to rest when Discovery launched flawlessly into orbit with its crew of six, plus ISS crewmember Reiter. This time the ET performed perfectly, and no damage was seen on Discovery’s thermal protection system. The crew carried out the same checks as the flight of STS-114, and the same pitch-over maneuvre that was to be a part of all ISS docking approaches. Once docked at the station, the crew delivered more supplies, carried out two space­walks to test future safety options, and made a few repairs on the ISS. The crew undocked, and landed on 17 July after leaving Thomas Reiter on the ISS to officially join the Expedition 13 crew.

The Expedition 14 crew consisted of U. S. commander Michael Lopez-Alegria, and two flight engineers, cosmonaut Mikhail Tyurin and astronaut Sunita Williams. The first two crew were launched on board Soyuz-TMA 9, whilst Williams flew to the ISS aboard STS-116 in December 2006. This continued the trend set by Thomas Reiter flying to the ISS aboard STS-121, the intention being to carry on the practice of sending the third crewman to the ISS aboard the shuttle to allow the Russians to sell the third seat on the Soyuz to potential researchers or tourists. In fact the format of the expedition crews was to change somewhat from Expedition 14 onwards. The crew size remained at three, but the third crewmember would change more frequently so that each expedition would have two or three different flight engineers, some from the partner nations such Japan, Canada, and ESA.

With the return of STS-121, NASA had renewed confidence in the shuttle’s abilities, and wanted to press on with the construction of the ISS. STS-115 with its crew of six was to add two pairs of new solar arrays to the ISS to provide power for the future Columbus and Kibo laboratories, and they would be supplemented by the crew of STS-117 in 2007. The space shuttle Atlantis was ready for its first space flight in four years, although not without some difficulty. A hurricane was due to hit the Kennedy Space Center whilst Atlantis was sitting on the pad, and the decision was taken to roll Atlantis back to the Vehicle Assembly Building (VAB), however, just as the shuttle was halfway back, the forecast changed and NASA managers decided to take Atlantis back to the pad after all. This was the first time in the shuttle’s history that such a move had been made. On 9 September 2006, Atlantis hurled herself into orbit to begin a 12-day construction mission. After the now standard checks of the shuttle tile system, which showed no damage at all, Atlantis docked with the ISS and prepared for the first of three spacewalks that would be carried out by this crew. First the new solar arrays, and the truss they are attached to, had to be lifted out the shuttle’s cargo bay using the shuttle’s robot arm and handed over to the station’s robot arm before they were attached to the station, this involved great precision and communication between Dan Burbank and Chris Ferguson, who were operating the shuttle’s arm, and Canadian Steve MacLean who was on board the ISS operating its

Canadarm-2. The new truss was left in the grasp of the stations arm until the next day, when spacewalkers Joe Tanner and Heidemarie Stefanyshyn-Piper removed the launch restraining bolts and began wiring the new arrays to the station after the truss was firmly attached to the existing structure. Steve MacLean and Dan Burbank continued the work on the flight’s second spacewalk, and the following Thursday the commands were sent to begin the unfurling of the new solar arrays. There were some concerns at this stage that the arrays might stick (they had, after all, been packed in their storage box for over three years due to the delays in the shuttle program) but they deployed perfectly to their full length of 240 ft. A third spacewalk by Tanner and Stefanyshyn-Piper completed the work by removing the last restraints that allowed a radiator to unfurl, and also upgraded the stations communications system. STS-115 had been an outstanding success, but it was not without its little last minute drama. Two days after undocking from the ISS, as the crew prepared for re­entry, a small object was observed by ground radar floating just below the shuttle’s belly. They immediately postponed the planned de-orbit burn to give them time to diagnose this discovery. The next day permission for re-entry was given after the crew had carried out another check of the thermal protection system with the shuttle arm and boom; it was later decided that the object was almost certainly a plastic tile gap filer, and that the other smaller bits of debris probably came from the cargo bay, and were a result of Atlantis’ prolonged down time between flights.

One more flight remained in 2006; the December launch of STS-116 with the shuttle Discovery. The crew of seven contained five rookies, amongst them Sunita Williams, who was to become the second new member of the Expedition 14 crew on the ISS. She would remain on board for the next six months, crossing over the period when Expedition 15 took over command of the station. ISS resident Thomas Reiter would be brought back to Earth after his long stay on the ISS that began with the launch of STS-121. There were more criteria for Discovery’s launch than previous missions, mostly due to the time of year; NASA did not want the shuttle to still be in orbit during the New Year crossover, as it was felt that the on board computers may have a hard time dealing with the new date. A second consideration were the orbital thermal conditions during December which made it preferable to launch between 7 and 26 December, because the shuttle must launch as the ISS passes into the correct orbital plane for the shuttle’s ascent path, this dictated a night-time launch, the first since the Columbia accident. Night launches had been ruled out by the safety commission due to the needs of ground-based photography to inspect the shuttles tiles and ET during launch; however, NASA felt that the last two missions had provided enough confidence over the launch performance of the redesigned ET to allow this requirement to be waived. Lastly, an engine firing by the docked Progress freighter was required to boost the ISS orbit enough to allow a docking on flight day three of the mission regardless of the day of launch. The first attempt at this firing had failed, possibly due to the station’s unbalanced current configuration, but a second attempt, carried out a week later with a software patch to compensate for the station’s off-axis center of mass, was successful and allowed Discovery’s countdown to begin as scheduled. Unfortunately, the first launch attempt was scrubbed due to unacceptable weather at the launch site. The second try was scheduled two days later, as the weather forecast for a 24-hour turnround were thought unlikely to be any better. On Saturday 9 December, mission STS-116 got underway despite the weather looking to be uncooperative for most of the countdown. The spectacular light show put on by the shuttle’s main engines and SRBs was enough for some of the launch photography to be carried out, but in fact such pictures were not really necessary, as the launch proceeded flawlessly, and as Shuttle Program Manager Wayne Hale said, “We’re not relying on those ascent-based observations for the safety of that particu­lar flight, we’re relying on the inspection of the heat shield, which we do in excruciat­ing detail on orbit now to make sure they’re safe to come back.’’ On flight day three, as scheduled, Discovery docked with the ISS and immediately the crew set to work, Sunita Williams installed her seat liner in the docked Soyuz for use in an emergency evacuation of the station, and at that moment became an official member of the Expedition 14 crew. Thomas Reiter, had until that moment, been part of the resident crew, but now joined the STS-116 crew in preparation for his return to Earth. Rookie mission specialist Nicholas Patrick, born in England, hoisted the new solar array truss out of the payload bay and handed it over to the ISS robot arm operated by Sunita Williams, where it would wait until the next day and the first of the planned Extravehicular Activities (EVAs). The first EVA was to be carried out by veteran space walker Robert Curbeam and his partner Rookie Swedish astronaut Christer Fuglesang. They successfully installed the new segment of truss on the end of it’s existing length. The first EVA was so trouble-free that they were able to tackle a couple of tasks from the next EVAs schedule in order to ensure that the mission kept ahead of the timeline in case something unexpected happened later in the mission. Something unexpected duly did occur the very next day, when ground controllers attempted to fold up one of the existing solar arrays to allow them to be moved during a later mission, and also to allow enough clearance for the adjacent arrays installed during STS-115 to begin to rotate to track the Sun. The array refused to fold up by the required amount, getting stuck after only about half of its length had been retracted. Ground controllers decided to press ahead with the rest of the mission’s EVAs whilst they worked on possible solutions. Curbeam and Fuglesang carried out a second EVA to rewire the station’s power supply in readiness for more solar arrays; so successful were their efforts that the spacewalk ended an hour early. The third EVA, which was to feature ISS resident Sunita Williams’ first EVA with Curbeam, continued with the rewiring efforts and also reconfigured some of the station’s cool­ing systems as well. Ground controllers had decided to add a task to this EVA, if there was time, to get the spacewalkers to look at the stuck solar array and try to provide more information on the problem, and if time allowed, carry out repair efforts. The spacewalking crew managed to coax the array further into its box, but a stubborn part on one side of the array stopped further progress as the astronauts’ time for this spacewalk had run out. Ground controllers decided to add a fourth EVA to the already crowded flight plan for the very next day, that they hoped would finally put the array back in its box. However, the extra time needed for an additional EVA did not come without a price. The crew would have to sacrifice a planned contingency landing day, which would mean that Discovery would have less time to play with in the event of unacceptable weather at the primary landing sites at the Kennedy Space

Center (KSC), Edwards Air Force Base, or Nothrup Strip at White Sands in New Mexico. The White Sands landing site has only ever been used once in the shuttle’s history, at the end of Columbia’s third test flight; engineers on the ground say that it took years to get all of the gypsum out of Columbia’s nooks and crannies. The fourth EVA proved to be successful when Curbeam managed to coax the last of the array into its box. This prepared the way for the crew of STS-120 which will fly toward the end of 2007, to relocate the array to the other end of the station. Discovery undocked from the ISS the next day and began preparations for its return to Earth. Commander Mark Polansky said, “It’s always a goal to try and leave some place in better shape than it was when you came and I think we’ve accomplished that due to everyone’s hard work. And so with that, I hope we’re really on our way to a great start for assembly completion.’’ Discovery and her crew attempted to land at the first oppor­tunity, but were waived off when the weather at both KSC and Edwards became unacceptable; they would have to wait another orbit (an hour and a half) before they could try again. Then, with minutes to go, KSC’s weather decided to co-operate, just, and the crew were given a “go” to carry out the de-orbit burn, Discovery completed the mission after nearly 13 days with a smooth touchdown on KSC’s concrete runway ending STS-116 and the long-duration mission of some six months for Thomas Reiter.

The year 2006 had been a successful one for NASA and its ISS partners. STS-116 had added more power to the station, and the stage was set for the next shuttle flight, STS-117, to finish that work. Atlantis was due for launch on 15 March after being rolled out to the pad on 15 February and everything appeared to be on schedule to meet that launch date, when on 26 February a freak hailstorm tore through the Kennedy Space Center causing damage to the exposed nose of the external tank. At first it was hoped that the damage would not be too bad, and that repairs could be carried out at the pad, but inspection revealed at least 1,000 points of damage, additional damage was found on Atlantis’ left wing and a rollback to the Vehicle Assembly Building (VAB) was essential. When the shuttle got back to the VAB and close inspections were possible it was finally determined that there were 2,644 points of damage. The repair effort was clearly going to take some time, and the launch schedule for the year was now under threat. The original launch schedule had called for STS-117/Atlantis to be launched mid-March, followed by STS-118/Endeavour in June, and STS-120/Atlantis in September, with STS-122/Discovery rounding out the year in November. The turnaround of Atlantis after STS-117 for launch again on STS-120 would also have been very difficult in such a short timescale. On the 16 April, NASA announced a new flight schedule which still allowed four missions to the ISS in 2007. The complete schedule can be found in more detail in Appendix A, but the summary is:

STS-117/Atlantis (8 June 2007)

STS-118/Endeavour (9 August 2007)

STS-120/Discovery (20 October 2007)

STS-122/Atlantis (6 December)

STS-123/Endeavour (14 February 2008)

STS – 124/Discovery (24 April 2008)

STS – 119/Endeavour (10 July 2008)

NASA was not having a very good start to year in other respects as well. A great deal of unwanted media interest was focused on the space agency when astronaut Lisa Nowak, who had flown on STS-121, was arrested on 5 February. It was alleged that Nowak, a U. S. Navy Captain, had tried to kidnap her perceived rival for the attentions of fellow astronaut, U. S. Navy Commander Bill Oefelein. Oefelein has just recently returned from his first spaceflight as pilot on STS-116 in December last year. The court case is not due to take place for some months but NASA relieved Nowak of her duties at the Johnson Space Center, and returned her to the Navy, stating that the Navy were better equipped to deal with this case than NASA.

Better news came on 7 April, when the Expedition 15 crew of Fyodor Yurchikhin and Oleg Kotov, along with space tourist Charles Simonyi were launched successfully to the ISS. Simonyi is the fifth space tourist to fly by virtue of an agreement with Space Adventures Ltd. Simonyi is best known as being the man behind software applications such as Word and Excel. Commander Fyodor Yurchikhin and flight engineer Oleg Kotov will replace Expedition 14 commander Michael Lopez-Alegria and flight engineer Mikhail Tyurin, the third ISS crewmember Sunita Williams will remain on board until she is replaced by Clay Anderson. On 2 April, Lopez-Alegria became the longest flying U. S. astronaut when he broke the existing record set by Expedition 4 of 196 days, however, this record may be broken by Sunita Williams if she still returns to Earth on board STS-118/Endeavour which is now delayed until August 2007. After the change in the space shuttle’s launch schedule, some thought was being given within NASA to returning Williams on STS-117 in June rather than waiting for STS-118. At the time of writing no final decision had been reached. Even if she does not break the endurance record, Sunita has already broken a record of a different kind when she took part in the Boston marathon on 16 April. She was an official participant running on the stations treadmill whilst fellow astro­naut Karen Nyberg took part on the ground. Running on the treadmill is an important part of any astronauts exercise regime whilst on a long-duration mission, and Williams, who is an accomplished marathon runner, had been training for this run for most of her flight so far. She finished the “course’’ in 4 hours, 23 minutes, and 10 seconds.

In the remainder of 2007 it is important to NASA’s schedule to complete the ISS, with several missions adding essential parts to the station. STS-117 will add more solar arrays—extra power that is essential to the new modules that are due to be delivered over the next two years. STS-118 will add another segment of the station’s truss structure. In addition it will see the flight of Barbara Morgan, Christa McAuliffe’s back-up for the tragic STS-51L Teacher in Space mission. STS-120 adds another vital component to the growth of the ISS when it launches with Node 2, now called Harmony. Harmony will serve the same purpose as Unity currently does, as an interconnecting module for future labs such as Columbus and Kibo. STS-122 will take the long awaited European Space Agency lab, Columbus, to the station, before

The International Space Station... at last

Sunita Williams running on treadmill

2008 when STS-123 and STS-124 will attach the various parts of Japan’s Kibo lab to the station. Beyond that will be the installation of Node 3, more solar arrays and truss segments, before the ISS is declared complete (see color plates for the complete ISS assembly sequence).


In February 1969, the first test launch of the N-1 ended in disaster. The rocket was in trouble immediately after its lift-off: a fire had developed in its first stage that grew worse as the rocket ascended, and when the engine-monitoring system detected the fire 68 seconds into the flight, it unfortunately responded by shutting down the entire first stage, and the enormous vehicle crashed back to the ground. The N-1 program, which had been in trouble since its inception, had floundered. The Soviet hierarchy realized that any chance of beating the U. S.A. to the moon had crashed along with this first test flight.

The future for manned space stations

NASA was in a depressed state in 2003. Many within the agency had to consider their role in the loss of the Space Shuttle Columbia, and many others continued to mourn the loss of the seven astronauts. More worrying still was the fact that management shortcomings, which had been a contributing factor to the loss of Challenger, seemed to have returned and played a part in another tragedy. The U. S. public again questioned the need for NASA and space exploration, and even within the agency itself the loss of direction and purpose had instilled itself in the minds of the staff at all of the NASA’s centers. The White House had felt for some time that a new injection of energy and exploration was needed, not just for the employees of NASA, but to a public that felt America was losing its way, bogged down by conflict, both at home and abroad.

When the final report from the Columbia Accident Investigation Board was delivered in August 2003 it made a great many specific recommendations for the safe return to flight of the space shuttle program. It also suggested changes and improvements that were not specifically required for flight, but that were felt to be necessary for NASA’s future. It made the point firstly that “One is the lack, over the past three decades, of any national mandate providing NASA a compelling mission requiring human presence in space,’’ and secondly that “Since the 1970s, NASA has not been charged with carrying out a similar high-priority mission that would justify the expenditure of resources on a scale equivalent to those allocated for Project Apollo. The result is the agency has found it necessary to gain the support of diverse constituencies. NASA has had to participate in the give and take of the normal political process in order to obtain the resources needed to carry out its programs. NASA has usually failed to receive budgetary support consistent with its ambitions. The result, as noted throughout Part Two of the report, is an organization straining to do too much with too little.’’ In the previous chapters we have seen that all too frequently NASA had not been given the funding or ongoing support it needed to see

programs to their conclusion, the CAIB recognized this and hoped that the U. S. Government would do something about it.

The CAIB report also highlighted the fact that the space shuttle’s days were numbered, the loss of two shuttles was clearly too many, and most now accepted that the shuttle was an inherently dangerous design. The almost complete lack of a crew escape system, plus the sheer technical complexity of the space shuttle meant that it was not acceptable to continue flying astronauts on it. Most people accept that space travel is always going to be a dangerous occupation, but why make it more dangerous than it needs to be? The public perception of NASA putting their space crews at risk, apparently without any concern, could not continue, a new spacecraft would be needed to carry future crews to Earth orbit and beyond, one that encompassed more safety features, and viable escape options when things go wrong.

In the early part of 2004, The White House took two steps to improve NASA’s future, and give the agency a sense of direction once again. First, President Bush announced in a speech at NASA’s headquarters on 14 January, the steps required for humans to return to the Moon, and eventually to land on Mars. Several key mile­stones relating to the space shuttle, the ISS, and future plans for the Moon and Mars were revealed along with the need to create a new space vehicle.

The Story of Manned Space Stations

As is usual with such a project, I have many people to thank.

First, Colin Burgess who I have to thank, or blame, for getting me started with this book. Your support and encouragement have always been very important.

I also need to thank my fellow Praxis authors, David Shayler and David Harland for their support, as well as the understanding of my publisher Clive Horwood who has led this first-time author through the minefield of book publishing.

Some of the images in this book have come from a free space flight simulator called “Orbiter”. This software has allowed me to include images of spacecraft for which no images exist, or at least are of poor quality. Please visit www. orbitersim. com for more information. I would particularly like to thank David Polan, who has provided several such images for this book, including one on the front cover.

I mentioned in my dedication the staff of King’s College Hospital Liver Unit, and I would now like to add to that by mentioning Dr. Micheal Hinnehan and his team, and Dr. John Ramage and his team at North Hampshire Hospital, both of whom helped me through the most difficult period of my life. As an aside, I would urge all U. K. based readers to register as organ donors at www. uktransplant. org. uk, because quite literally you would not be reading this book if someone had not done the same for me.


The sole objective of the flight of Soyuz 9 was to set a new spaceflight endurance record, and beat the previous best of fourteen days that had been set by Gemini 7 five years previously. The crew consisted of commander Andrian Nikolayev and flight engineer Vitali Sevastyanov. Nikolayev had previously flown on Vostok 3, and he was married to cosmonaut Valentina Tereshkova. Sevastyanov was making his first flight. The Soyuz had been specially modified to undertake this long-endurance flight: its docking system had been removed, and a new larger life support system had been installed. The already cramped orbital module had also been fitted with exercise equipment and extra storage racks, as well as additional carbon dioxide scrubbers. The crew launched successfully on 1 June 1970, and immediately started work on their extensive suite of scientific experiments. Unfortunately, they devoted so much of their time to experiments that they neglected their physical exercise program, with the result that when they landed eighteen days later they were unable to stand and took several weeks to recover fully. Of course, the flight was not just about testing the ability of the human body to withstand weightlessness over an extended period, it was equally important that the Soyuz spacecraft prove itself to be capable of long stays in orbit because if it was to progress to acting as a ferry between the ground and an orbiting space station, it would have to remain in space for long periods. With the mission successfully completed, confidence in the Soyuz design was boosted. However, there was still much to learn about long-duration flight if cosmonauts on missions to space stations were to avoid the pitfalls of the Soyuz 9 crew.

The Space Shuttle and International Space Station

• Complete assembly of the International Space Station, including the U. S. com­ponents that support U. S. space exploration goals and those provided by foreign partners by 2010.

• Return the space shuttle to flight as soon as practical, based on the recommen­dations of the Columbia Accident Investigation Board.

• Retirement of the space shuttle by the end of 2010

The Moon

• Undertake lunar exploration activities to enable sustained human and robotic exploration of Mars and more distant destinations in the Solar System.

• Starting no later than 2008, initiate a series of robotic missions to the Moon to prepare for and support future human exploration activities.

• Conduct the first extended human expedition to the lunar surface as early as 2015, but no later than the year 2020.


• Conduct robotic exploration of Mars to search for evidence of life, to understand the history of the Solar System, and to prepare for future human exploration.

• Conduct robotic exploration across the Solar System for scientific purposes and to support human exploration. In particular, explore Jupiter’s moons, asteroids, and other bodies to search for evidence of life, to understand the history of the Solar System, and to search for resources.

• Conduct advanced telescope searches for Earth-like planets and habitable en­vironments around other stars.

• Develop and demonstrate power generation, propulsion, life support, and other key capabilities required to support more distant, more capable, and/or longer duration human and robotic exploration of Mars and other destinations.

• Conduct human expeditions to Mars after acquiring adequate knowledge about the planet using robotic missions and after successfully demonstrating sustained human exploration missions to the Moon.

New spacecraft

• Develop a new crew exploration vehicle to provide crew transportation for missions beyond low Earth orbit.

– Conduct the initial test flight before the end of this decade in order to provide an operational capability to support human exploration missions no later than 2014.

• Separate to the maximum practical extent crew from cargo transportation to the International Space Station and for launching exploration missions beyond low Earth orbit

– Acquire cargo transportation as soon as practical and affordable to support missions to and from the International Space Station.

– Acquire crew transportation to and from the International Space Station, as required, after the space shuttle is retired from service.

The second step came two weeks later when an Executive Order formed a commission comprising several industry leaders. It would be their job to outline the best way for NASA to achieve the goals that President Bush had set in his speech; this commission had only four months to report its findings back to the White House.

At last it seemed that NASA would have a clear path forward that it had been craving since Apollo 17 left the surface of the moon so many years ago. It was clearly understood what was required of the space agency, for the first time in many years they would be striving for achievable goals, rather than pushing frontiers that it couldn’t hope to reach. Most importantly, the funding for these goals had been committed, and as long as NASA made good progress, the money would continue to flow. It remains to be seen how this policy will be carried over from one President to the next, but for now NASA has a clear goal to work towards.

Perhaps the largest single task ahead of NASA is the development of a replace­ment spacecraft for the space shuttle, the Crew Exploration Vehicle (CEV), or Orion as it would later become officially known. What would such a vehicle look like? Would it be wings and wheels again, like the space shuttle, or would a simpler design be a surer bet for success? A significant complicating factor was the need for such a spacecraft to not only fly to Earth orbit and the ISS, but also be adaptable enough to form the basis of a Moon and Mars orbiter. In September 2004 NASA issued contracts to eight aerospace contractors to begin studies into the kind of designs which would fullfil the following requirements:

• Support a minimum crew of four (NASA preferred six) from the Earth’s surface through mission completion on the Earth’s surface.

• Have a mass less than 15-18 tonnes (the precise value to be determined in preliminary contract studies).

• Have an abort capability during all phases of flight. Preferably such abort capability would be available continuously and independent of Launch Vehicle (LV) or Earth Departure Stage (EDS) flight control.

• Integrate with the Constellation Launch Vehicle (LV) to achieve low Earth orbit.

• Integrate with the Earth Departure Stage (EDS) to achieve lunar orbit.

• Integrate with the Lunar Surface Access Module (LSAM) to achieve lunar sur­face mission objectives. Preferably the CEV would be capable of transferring consumables to and from the EDS and the LSAM.

Perhaps not surprisingly the selected companies came back with very different design solutions, they did, however, agree on some basic principles. Namely that it would be most cost effective to make use of either an existing launch vehicle, or one derived from existing technology. This launch vehicle would also make use of extra stages or strap-on boosters to make launches to the Moon or Mars possible from the same core rocket. They also agreed that a four-man craft, at least for Earth orbit missions, would be ideal, and should weigh less than nine tonnes. By June 2005, NASA had narrowed the contractor list down to two; Lockheed Martin, and a joint team of Northrop-Grumman and Boeing, these two “finalists” would build a CEV of NASA’s design, and the decision between the two would be made without either party having to build a prototype. NASA’s own design had changed somewhat from the original requirements, the crew had grown from four to six, and the launch weight had grown with it, to 30 tonnes. The increased weight also rather narrowed down the list of launch vehicles available, in fact no existing rocket was considered suitable to launch the CEV in its new form. A new launcher, derived from existing shuttle technology would have to be created. In fact NASA seemed intent on pushing its own design for both the CEV and launch vehicle rather than embracing the designs submitted by experienced aerospace contractors after months of detailed technical and practical study. It seemed clear that NASA had never intended to make use of the innovative designs that many of the contractors had come up, and had always planned to make use of its design. Many industry experts felt that NASA’s basic design assumptions were flawed, and likened the situation to the initial designs of the Apollo spacecraft that took Americans to the moon nearly forty years earlier.

Whatever NASA’s intentions the winning contractor was announced on the 31 August 2006, it would be Lockheed Martin that would build the new spacecraft named Orion. The spacecraft’s new name had been officially announced the previous day, but unfortunately some of that fire had been stolen when astronaut Jeff Wil­liams, speaking during a press conference on board the ISS, had let the name slip eight days earlier.

With that announcement made, NASA’s attention turned to the launch vehicles that would be used for Orion. The first, most basic, is called Ares 1, it is otherwise known as “the stick’’. This is the launch vehicle that will be used for all of Orion’s Earth orbit missions, including those that rendezvous with the ISS. Initially it appeared as if Orion’s great weight would be far too much for the shuttle solid rocket motor derived Ares 1, many within the industry feel that NASA has more problems with its design than it is letting on, but during recent press conferences NASA has assured everyone that Ares 1 will be ready on time for Orion’s first flight, not thought to take place sometime in 2012.

On 13 December 2004 Sean O’Keefe resigned as Administrator of NASA. He had maintained this position for three years, through the Columbia disaster and the troubled planning for the shuttle’s return to flight.

The space shuttle returned to flight with Discovery flying STS-114 in July 2005. This flight was not without its problems, but NASA is now back in the business of flying space shuttles and completing the construction of the International Space Station (ISS).

The new NASA Administrator, Mike Griffin, has vowed to reverse the fortunes of a beleaguered agency, and focus on Project Constellation. On 28 September 2005 Griffin said that the shuttle and ISS, indeed the whole of the U. S. manned space program for the past three decades, had been mistakes! He said NASA lost its way in the 1970s, when the agency ended the Apollo program of moon visits in favor of developing the shuttle and space station, which can only orbit Earth. These decisions can be directly connected to the Apollo mode decision made during the 1960s.

“It is now commonly accepted that was not the right path,’’ Griffin said. “We are now trying to change the path while doing as little damage as we can. It cannot be done instantaneously.’’

Only now is the nation’s space program getting back on track, Griffin said a week after the announcement that NASA aims to send astronauts back to the moon in 2018 in a spacecraft that would look like the Apollo capsule and would be carried into space by a rocket built from shuttle components.

When asked whether the shuttle had been a mistake, Griffin said, “My opinion is that it was. It was a design which was extremely aggressive and just barely possible, especially with the amount of funding allocated to the problem.’’ He added on the subject of the ISS which was started in 1999, “Had the decision been mine, we would not have built the space station we’re building in the orbit we’re building it in.’’

Griffin’s statements have sparked a great deal of analysis of the space shuttle and ISS programs. Hindsight of course is a wonderful thing, but at the time, at the end of Apollo and Skylab, NASA had very little choice about its next manned spaceflight program. Had money been no object, then clearly things would have been different, but Congress and President Nixon would only allow a certain amount to be spent; there were, as always, other priorities. Had NASA pushed for more moon flights, or missions to Mars they would simply have been turned down, and possibly left with no manned program of any kind. NASA hoped that by going ahead with the shuttle, compromised design though it was, they would eventually be able to add the other components, such as the space station, at later dates. To a certain extent this turned out to be the case, but it took far longer than NASA had envisaged, and it had already cost the lives of the seven Challenger shuttle astronauts before anything else was built or flown. The birth of the ISS has already been covered in earlier chapters,

The Space Shuttle and International Space Station

Shenzhou 5 crew—Liwei Yang

but one thing is worth considering. Griffin suggests at the end of his statement that he would not have built the station in its current orbit. He is presumably alluding to the fact that NASA agreed to change the inclination of the ISS orbit to 51 degrees in order to enable the Russians to launch payloads and crews from their launch site at Baikonur. The detrimental effect of this decision was that the shuttle effectively had its payload to ISS orbit capability cut by as much as 30%; or to put it another way, the change added a further 10-15 shuttle flights to the building schedule. Griffin apparently views this concession as a mistake, but imagine if the ISS had been placed in its original 28-degree orbit, out of the reach of the Russians, the station would have had to be abandoned after the Columbia accident in February 2003, as NASA would have had no other means to reach it.

The Chinese, on the other hand, have made their intentions quite clear. They now have two successful manned flights under their belts with the launches of Shenzhou 5 in October 2003, and the two-man launch of Shenzhou 6 in October 2005.

The Space Shuttle and International Space Station

Shenzou 6 crew—Junlon Fei and Haisheng Nie

The second of these flights is more significant because it lasted for just over five days, had a crew of two, and for the first time for the Chinese that crew carried out scientific experiments. To call the Shenzhou 6 spacecraft a “mini space station” would be taking things too far. After all, Shenzhou is an evolution of the Russian Soyuz spacecraft, although it is larger and has been changed a great deal from the original Soyuz design. However, the Chinese clearly have that kind of development in mind with this design. The orbital module is larger than Soyuz, and has its own propulsion and solar arrays that allow for autonomous flight. This means that the orbital module can be left flying, and carrying out automatic experiments after the crew has left the module and returned to Earth. Just such a mission profile was followed during the first manned flight of Shenzhou in 2003, the orbital module remained circling the Earth fulfilling a six month long military imaging mission. It also means that these modules could be launched to attach to an existing space station by themselves allowing the station to grow. It is thought that the orbital module comes in different sizes for different mission profiles.

They will have a manned station in orbit by 2015, and whilst nobody could say that this is an accelerated program, the station will be of their own design, and not borrowed Soviet/Russian technology. The Chinese are in space to stay, and seem keen not to repeat the unfocused programs of NASA and its partners, but to take one step at a time in a logical fashion. In more recent times (11 January 2007), the Chinese have angered the rest of the world with their testing of an ASAT (anti-satellite) resulting in the destruction of an obsolete weather satellite; such tests have not been carried out by either the U. S. Air Force or the Soviets for about twenty years. This further underlines the fact that the Chinese are following their own agenda both in space and on the ground, and have little regard for the opinions of the rest of the world.

The Russians too have plans for the future despite their more limited financial resources. A design intended to replace the venerable Soyuz and Progress spacecraft is on the drawing boards, and it is called Kliper. Design work on this new spacecraft began back in 2000, but its configuration has changed many times since to reflect both the needs of the Russian, and ISS space programs, and of course the budgets of the agencies involved. The specification is now set to carry six people to and from Earth orbit, plus carry 500 kg of cargo/supplies. The new spacecraft will have a service life of 10 years or 25 flights. The design was first revealed to the public in February 2004 at a press conference held by Yuri Koptev of RKK Energia; however, by April 2005 no funding from the Russian government had been forthcoming according to Valery Ryumin of RKK Energia. Good news for Kliper came in June 2005, when the European Space Agency (ESA) seemed to commit themselves to the development of the project. This would allow Kliper to be launched from the ESA Korou launch site as well as the existing Russian facilities. The support from ESA could mean that Kliper should launch sometime in 2011. Kliper will be launched by a Soyuz-3 booster, and in August 2005 a model of the Soyuz-3 booster with Kliper atop was shown at the Moscow Air and Space Show, MAKS-2005. Japan has also shown interest in the project as involvement would give them independent access to the ISS and its own Kibo Spacelab without requiring seats on the U. S. space shuttle. However, in the summer of 2006, ESA changed its plans, and forced RKK Energia to revisit the design of the Kliper spacecraft, it now seems unlikely that the Kliper will ever fly as Russia’s focus had returned to the Soyuz, and a possible upgrade of that spacecraft.

Space stations have literally come a long way since 1971 and the launch of Salyut 1. The Soviets/Russians have arguably made the greatest leaps, both in terms of hardware design and crew organization and motivation. NASA, however, has learned to apply its greater levels of technology relevantly and with great effect. It has, perhaps, taken them longer to embrace the finer points of crew interaction and scheduling, probably understandable all the time they were flying the space shuttle as well. Now NASA, with Orion, has the opportunity to make great strides beyond low-Earth orbit, to the moon and Mars, but what of the future of the ISS, this is much less clear. Orion will service the ISS once the shuttle completes construction of the station before the end of 2010, and Russia will continue to send Soyuz spacecraft and Progress cargo ships, the ESA will also send its ATV to the ISS for replenishment of consumables for the crew. Beyond that, Russia has plans to expand the station with

The Space Shuttle and International Space Station

Orion approaches the ISS

more modules, but that initiative is solely reliant on finding the money to finance it. The ESA and Japan will at long last have their labs to carry out research in, and that will probably keep both organizations busy for some time to come. Beyond all of these possibilities, the future of the ISS is unknown, in fact none of the participating nations are saying very much about the future; presumably they are all too tied up in getting construction completed.

The next space stations will probably not even be in Earth orbit, stations orbiting the moon and Mars seem more likely to be the next stage of development, and clearly this represents an even greater challenge, for both man and technology.

The Space Shuttle and International Space Station

ISS completed


In 1971, Viktor Patsayez gazed out of the small windows on Salyut 1, and looked at the Earth below. The enormous area of the Soviet Union slowly drifted past, and he watched quietly, totally absorbed by the sight. He marveled at the fact that he was here at all. That his country was capable of producing a technological miracle such as Salyut 1 he had no doubt. However, without the succession of recent crew changes, his presence on this mission was most unlikely. He had certainly not thought that he would spend his 38th, and last, birthday in space.

In 1973, Owen Garriott spent a lot of his time looking at the Earth through Skylab’s huge wardroom window. This window was the only one of note on the station, and to begin with, the stations designers had resisted including it, finally giving in to pressure from the potential crews. Now the crew could not imagine life without it. The work schedule aboard Skylab was intense, but each crewmember of the three missions tried to find some time each day just to look.

Georgi Grechko loved being back in space. He had flown to Salyut 4 two years earlier, in 1975, but the Salyut 6 station that he was now aboard was a great improvement in many ways. For one thing, it had a bigger, clearer window, and Grechko never tired of gazing at his homeland, and the far reaches of space. Many things had changed on the surface of his home planet in the time between the launch of Salyut 1 and now. Relations with the United States were more open then ever since the Apollo-Soyuz docking mission in 1975, and it was possible that more joint missions would take place in the future.

Ulf Merbold had trained for five years for the opportunity to fly aboard America’s space shuttle, and now in 1983 he was here with his five crewmates aboard Columbia for the first flight of the European Spacelab. The schedule was unbelievably tight, but when he could steal a few moments, often before going to sleep, he would look at the Earth through the shuttle’s flight-deck overhead rendezvous windows. Eleven years later, he would look again, but not through the windows of a space shuttle, but the windows of a Russian space station, called Mir.

The period that Michael Foale most enjoyed was when he had finished exercising. Hot and sweaty, he would float to one of the windows in Mir’s Kristall module, this window was special because it had an air jet fitted that was originally used to cool a camera. The camera was long gone, but the jet remained and it was the ideal thing to cool down a steaming astronaut as he watched the world go by. Six years later Foale was looking through a much larger window than had ever been in space before. He floated in the U. S. Destiny laboratory module aboard the International Space Station (ISS) after exercising in the station’s node module, Unity, and looked through the 20- inch-wide window at the Earth below.

Sergei Krikalev had flown in space six times: twice on the Mir space station, twice on the U. S. space shuttle, and as a member of the very first crew of the ISS. Now he commanded that station’s eleventh expedition, and when this mission was complete, he would have flown over 800 days in space, more than any other human being. He had looked at the Earth from four different spacecraft, and once literally watched the world below change as the Soviet Union dissolved into the Confederation of Inde­pendent States before his very eyes. When he landed the communist state was no more, and he was a Russian citizen.

For Frank Culbertson it was the most painful experience of his life. Below him, the twin towers of the World Trade Center in New York lay in ruins, and every orbit allowed him to see the devastation from an unprecedented viewpoint on board the ISS. The Pentagon had been hit too, of course, and Frank was to learn that the pilot of that plane was a friend that he had been in flight school with. Tears don’t flow as easily in space, he would later observe.

The history of man’s space stations is a long one, and one that is necessary if we are to journey beyond the orbit of our own planet again. The glory days of Apollo are a long way behind us, many more manned hours aboard the ISS the space shuttles, and the Crew Exploration Vehicle (CEV) lay ahead before we can fulfil our destiny to land human explorers on Mars. Here is the story of what has gone before, the human story, the technical story, and the sometimes tragic tale of “The Story of Manned Space Stations’’.


After the disasters of the Soyuz 1 and N-1, and the continuing disagreements between Mishin and Chelomei, the Soviet government decided that the rival teams should pool resources, under the program name DOS, in order, finally, to get the space station project off the ground. The basic Almaz design was thought to be sound and was kept, but the TKS ferry was thought to be too complicated for rapid develop­ment, and so modifications were made to the Almaz design to allow it to accept a Soyuz as the crew ferry. Other changes included replacing Chelomei’s design for propulsion with the proven Soyuz engine module,

The result of this enforced collaboration was Salyut 1, the first chapter in the story of manned space stations.

Flight schedule and International Space Station crewing

Scheduled Flight

launch date designation Flight crew

9 April 2007 Soyuz-TMA 10 Commander: Fyodor Yurchikhin

Flight engineer: Oleg Kotov

Flight engineer: Simonyi

Resident ISS crew Expedition 15 Commander: Fyodor Yurchikhin

Flight engineer: Oleg Kotov Flight engineer: Sunita Williams

8 June 2007 STS-117 Commander: Frederick Sturckow

Atlantis Pilot: Lee Archambault

Flight schedule and International Space Station crewingПодпись: 152 Appendix AFlight schedule and International Space Station crewingПодпись: ISS-13A: 2nd starboard truss segment, install S3/S4 solar arrays Flight schedule and International Space Station crewingMSI: Steven Swanson MS2: James Reilly MS3: Patrick Forrester MS4: John Olivas

Подпись: ISS-13A.1: SpaceHab-SM, 3rd starboard truss segment. Deliver third ISS crewmember (Anderson) Flight schedule and International Space Station crewingSTS-118 Commander: Scott Kelly

Endeavour Pilot: Charles Hobaugh

MSI: Rick Mastracchio MS2: Tracy Caldwell MS3: Dafydd Williams (Canada)

MS4: Barbara Morgan

MS5: Clayton Anderson (Exp 15—Up)

MS5: Sunita Williams (Exp 14—Down)

Resident ISS crew Expedition 15 Commander: Fyodor Yurchikhin

Flight engineer: Oleg Kotov Flight engineer: Clayton Anderson

6 October 2007 Soyuz-TMA 11 Commander: Yuri Malenchenko Deliver Expedition 16 crew

Flight engineer: Peggy Whitson (ISS Cdr) to ISS Flight engineer: Sheik Muszaphar Shukor

20 October 2007 STS-120 Commander: Pamela Melroy ISS 10A:

Discovery Pilot: George Zamka Node 2, sidewall

MSI: Stephanie Wilson MS2: Scott Parazynski MS3: Paolo Nespoli MS4: Douglas Wheelock MS5: Daniel Tani (Exp 15—Up)

Flight schedule and International Space Station crewingFlight schedule and International Space Station crewingПодпись: Appendix A 153MS5: Clayton Anderson (Exp 15—Down)

Scheduled Flight

launch date designation Flight crew Mission objectives

Resident ISS crew Expedition 16 Commander: Peggy Whitson

Flight engineer: Yuri Malenchenko Flight engineer: Daniel Tani

6 December 2007 STS-122 Commander: Stephen Frick ISS 1 E Columbus

Atlantis Pilot: Alan Poindexter

MSI: Hans Schlegel MS2: Stan Love MS3: Rex Walheim MS4: Leland Melvin MS5: Daniel Tani (Exp 16—Down)

MS5: Leopold Eyharts (Exp 16—Up)

Resident ISS crew Expedition 16 Commander: Peggy Whitson

Flight schedule and International Space Station crewingПодпись: 154 Appendix AFlight schedule and International Space Station crewingFlight engineer: Yuri Malenchenko Flight engineer: Leopold Eyharts (ESA)

14 February 2008

STS-123 Commander: Dominic Gorie Endeavour Pilot: Gregory Johnson MSI: Takao Doi (Japan)

MS2: Richard Linnehan

MS3: Michael Foreman

MS4: Robert Behnken

MS5: Garrett Reisman (Exp 16—Up)

MS5: Leopold Eyharts (Exp 16—Down)



Resident ISS crew

Expedition 16 Commander: Peggy Whitson

Flight engineer: Yuri Malenchenko Flight engineer: Garrett Reisman



8 April 2008

Soyuz TMA-12 Commander: Sergei Volkov

Flight engineer: Oleg Kononenko Flight engineer: Ко San or Yi So-yeon

Deliver Expedition 17 crew to ISS


Подпись: Appendix A 155

Scheduled Flight

launch date designation Flight crew Mission objectives Mission insignia

Flight schedule and International Space Station crewingПодпись: 156 Appendix AResident ISS crew Expedition 17 Commander: Peggy Whitson

Flight engineer: Sergei Volkov Flight engineer: Oleg Kononenko

24 April 2008 STS-124 Commander: Mark Kelly ISS 1J JEM PM, RMS

Discovery Pilot: Kenneth Ham

MSI: Michael Fossum MS2: Karen Nyberg MS3: Ronald Garan MS4: Stephen Bowen MS5: Akihiko Hoshide

10 July 2008





MSI: Michael Gernhardt

MS5: Sandra Magnus (Exp 17—Up)

MS5: Peggy Whitson (Exp 17—Down)

ISS 15A:

4th starboard truss segment, S6 array

11 September 2008


Commander: Scott Altman

HST service 4


Pilot: Gregory Johnson MSI: John Grunsfield MS2: Michael Massimino MS3: Andrew Feustel MS4: Michael Good MS5: Megan McArthur

Non-ISS mission

Resident ISS crew Expedition 17 Commander: Sergei Volkov

Flight schedule and International Space Station crewingFlight schedule and International Space Station crewingПодпись: Appendix A 157Flight engineer: Sandra Magnus Flight engineer: Oleg Kononenko

9 October 2008 STS-126 Commander: ISS ULF-2

Atlantis Pilot:


MS5: Koichi Wakata (Exp 17—Up)

MS5: Sandra Magnus (Exp 17—Down)

Resident ISS crew Expedition 17 Commander: Sergei Volkov

Flight engineer: Oleg Kononenko Flight engineer: Koichi Wakata

8 September 2008 Soyuz TMA-13 Commander: Salizhan Sharipov Deliver Expedition 18 crew

Flight engineer: Michael Fincke to ISS

Flight engineer: