Space Stations Systems and Operations

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Space Stations Systems and Operations

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Space Stations Systems and Operations Space Stations Systems and Operations

Script by: Twagirayezu Fidele


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Space Physics:Space Stations Systems and Operations


Space Physics:Space Stations Systems and Operations


Submitted: January 01, 2013

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Submitted: January 01, 2013




Space Stations and Operations

Fidele Twagirayezu


  Main parts of all Space Stations from First-Generation Space Stations to the International Space Station (ISS)

For thousand years, mankind has long looked up into the sky and wondered what is really out there and how the frontier could extend by building floating cities about there. The first attempt to deal with those mysterious adventures was the proposal of building an orbiting station in the 1869s American novel about how a Brick Moon came into around the Earth to help ships to navigate the sea. And in 1932, the term space station was, the first time used by Romanian Hermann Oberth to describe a wheel-like station that would be used to facilitate journeys to the Moon, Mars and beyond. And after nearly two decades, Werner Von Braun published a paper that talked about a space station that had to rotate to provide an artificial gravity.

The Soviets began to design rockets in the 1930s and the 1955, they began to build and test rockets on the Baikonur launch site, and in August 1957, they launched the world’s first intercontinental ballistic missile from the Baikonur launch site, in the same year, they launched the world’s first artificial satellite, the Sputnik. On April, 12, 1961, the Soviet Union sent the first human in space onboard the Vosdok I capsule. And after one year, the Soviet scientists and engineers revealed their plan about the construction of space station consisting of modules launched separately and assembled in space.

First generation of space Stations

First generation of space station was the Soviet space station, and consisted of modules that had one docking port and there was not possible to be resupplied or refueled, those space stations were placed into orbit without crews on board, so crews had to occupy them once they are into orbit. The Soviets built two types of first generation of space stations. Normally, Almaz space stations were designed for military purposes, and Salyut space stations were designed for civilian purposes but both stations were called Salyut confuse their adversaries. Because their first priorities were military activities in space, Almaz stations were the first stations to get funded. Those stations had three main parts: the surveillance space station, Transport Logistics Spacecraft for carrying soldiers, cosmonauts and cargo, and Proton rockets for launching both. All the spacecraft were constructed but they were not utilized according to the original plan, for example, military stations were finally used for civilian purposes.

And finally, the first space station in the history of the mankind was launched into orbit aboard the proton rocket on April 19, 1971, even though the Soviets had revolutionary ideas, but their first generation of space stations experienced many failures. For example, the first crew to be sent to the station were not able to get in because the hatch failed to open, so they and to return home few hours later. The second crew successfully entered and lived on board the station for three weeks but during the return to home some unexpected thing happened, their Salyut spacecraft lost the internal air, and they died before the landing. Some of the first generation space stations failed to reach the orbit or exploded during the launch, for example the Salyut 2, the first Almaz space station failed to reach the orbit. But those multiple failures helped the Soviets to reveal the secrecy of space flight, and then they quickly succeed to the next space vehicles and stations. They succeeded to launch Salyut 3, Salyut 4, and Salyut 5 that were capable to harbor crews of five persons. The knowledge gained during the first generation of space stations helped the Soviets scientist and engineers to build effective second generation of space stations.

Second- Generation Space Stations

Unalike the first generation space station, second generation space station were used for long duration stays, and they had two docking ports that allowed a resupply and a refueling by an automated spacecraft, the Progress which autonomously docked to the station at the aft port and then cosmonauts onboard the station had to open it and unloaded it, but refueling had to be done under supervision form the mission control to make sure that everything was being done perfectly. The other docking port could also receive visitors, and those visitors were not only from the Soviet Union, but also from other countries friendly to the Soviet Union, Vladimir Remck of Czechoslovakia visited the Salyut 6 in 1978. Visitors had to spend long period of time at the station before they return home, but they often used a spacecraft that that was already docked to the station because Soyuz spacecraft had a limited lifetime in orbit that typically varied between 60 to 90 days for Soyuz Ferry, and more than 180 days for Soyuz –TM.

Third- Generation Space Stations

The Mir Base Block (core module) was built from the earlier Soviet Salyut to serve as the foundation of the space station. Launched in February 1986, the 13.1-meter-long, 20.4-metric ton core harbored the primary living and working area, and life support and power, as well as the main computer, communications, and control equipment. The core had four main compartments: the Working Compartment that mainly served as working areas, the Transfer Compartment was a spherical structure at the front end of Mir, providing one end-docking port for visiting spacecraft, plus four radial berthing ports, set in a 90-degree arrangement, for access to the station’s added modules. The no pressurized Assembly Compartment provided support antennas, lights, and optical sensors. The pressurized Intermediate Compartment tunneled through the Assembly Compartment to connect the Working Compartment to the aft docking port, where the Kvant-1 module was permanently docked. Along the Mir Base Block, the Mir Station had our more modules.

Kvant means "quantum." When Kvant-1 was docked permanently to Mir’s aft docking port in April 1987, it increased Mir’s usable volume and expanded its scientific capabilities. The module served for various scientific researches. The 11-metric ton Kvant-1 measured 4.4 meters by 6.3 meters long, with 40 cubic meters of pressurized volume. The module had six gyrodynes to provide accurate pointing of the station so that it used less fuel for attitude control. Its aft docking port was available for Soyuz and Progress vehicles.

Kant 2 was a scientific and airlock module that was used for biological research, the observation of our planet Earth, and EVA capabilities.Kvant 2 improved the Mir station with the drinking water, oxygen storage, motion control system and power distribution, and it harbored shower and washing facilities. The 19.6-metric ton Kvant-2 measured 4.4 meters by 13.7 meters long with 61.3 cubic meters of volume and 27.4 meters of solar arrays. It was the first module equipped with the Lyappa manipulator arm, used to move the modules after they docked with Mir. The Kvant-2 docked with Mir in November 1989.

Spektr means "spectrum”. It was used for research into biotechnology, life sciences, materials science, and space technologies, and investigating the Earth’s natural resources and atmosphere. American astronauts sometimes used Spektr as their living quarters. Launched in May 1995, Spektr carried more than 1,600 pounds of U.S. equipment, mainly for biomedical research, and two pairs of solar arrays to boost power to the station and a Lyappa manipulator arm to assist in moving the modules on Mir. The 19.3-metric ton Spektr module measured 14.4 meters by 4.4 meters, with a pressurized volume of 62 cubic meters, and had four solar arrays.

Priroda means "nature” and this module was used for  Earth remote-sensing including the weather; the ocean-atmosphere system; land, mineral, and crop conditions; and humankind’s impacts and opportunities in the environment. Priroda also spot nuclear explosions sites, seismic activity areas, and other areas to create an integrated monitoring and warning system. Launched in April 1996, Priroda, the 19.7-metric ton module measured 4.4 meters by 12 meters long and had a pressurized volume of 66 cubic meters. The Space Station remained in orbit for over 15 years before it deorbited and destroyed during the re-entry in 2001.

First American Space Station

The Skylab space station was the first American space laboratory, and was placed on orbit on May, 14th, 1973 by Saturn V rocket, the space station was fabricated in pieces from Saturn V and Apollo components. The purpose of the station was to be used for scientific research for one year in space. The Apollo spacecraft carried by Saturn 1B rocket was used as a way of transportation to that space station. Primary research that had to be conducted to the space station were: to study of the sun, the microgravity research, to test the effects of long-duration space flights and to see how the human body reacts in space, to helped us learn to live and work in space, to conduct a variety of scientific and technological experiments such as metallic-crystal growth in the weightless state, and function as a laboratory in earth orbit. The space station weighted ninety one metric tons, and its height was thirty-six meters, and its diameter was about six and half meters. The station was on orbit of altitude of 435 kilometers, and the orbital mass was 77,088kg, and it had a habitable zone of 283 cubic meters of volume.

In reality, the Skylab space station was a modified last stage of a Saturn V , family of rockets that were used during the Moon missions,  the station was actually the refitted S-IVB second stage of a Saturn IB booster (from the AS-212 vehicle),and other pieces form the Apollo program. The space station had five main parts: the Orbital Workshop that was the living and working area for the crew, the Airlock Module that was used by the Astronauts to access the outside of Skylab for spacewalks; the Apollo Telescope Mount (ATM) was attached to one end of the cylindrical workshop. It was used to study our sun, stars and earth with no atmospheric interference; the Multiple Docking Adapter that allowed more than one Apollo spacecraft to dock to the station at once, and The Saturn Instrument Unit (IU) that was an important instrument because it allowed NASA teams in Huntsville to reprogram the space station using a massive ring of computers. The unit was used to guide Skylab itself into orbit. IU also was used to control the jettisoning of the protective payload shroud and activated the onboard life support systems, started the solar inertial attitude maneuver, deployed the Apollo Telescope mount at a 90-degree angle and deployed Skylab's solar wings.

In total four Skylab missions were conducted before it deorbited on July, 11th, 1979, and some of its debris fell into the Indian Ocean, and in the western part of Australia. The First mission was the Skylab 1, and it was the first mission that placed an unmanned space station in orbit using a two –stage version of Saturn V rocket launched from the Kennedy Space Center on May 14, 1973.But during that launch the space station was damaged, a shield and one of the solar panel were ripped off, and the other solar panel could not be fully deployed. Because of that damage, the crew could not immediately join the station like planned, so they had to wait until they learned how they could handle those problems. The Second mission was the Skylab 2, and it was launched on May, 25, 1973, and it returned to Earth on July, 22, 1973, so the duration of that mission was 28 days, and 50 minutes, and space crewmembers were: Charles C. Conrad Jr, Paul J. Weitz, and Joseph P. Kerwin. The third mission was the Skylab 3, and it was launched on July, 28, 1973, and returned to Earth on September, 25, 1973, so the duration of that mission was 59 days and 11 hours, and space station crewmembers were: Alan L. Bean, Jack R. Lousma, and Owen K. Garriott. And the final mission to the station was the Skylab 4 that was launched on November, 16, 1973, and returned to the Earth on February, 8, 1974, so the duration of that mission was 84 days and one hour, space crewmembers were: Gerald P. Carr, William R. Pogue, and Edward G. Gibson.

After the last mission, the space station remained on orbit for almost three years without anybody onboard until it deorbited and burnt during the re-entry, but during the same time, the Soviet space station, Mir, was still operational, and then the US decided to launch a brand new space station called Freedom, but finally it changed the mind, and it suggested to cooperate with other countries  around the world in space activities, in that goal, the US first cooperated with Soviet the so- called Space Shuttle-Mir program in the framework of forging an international cooperation in space activities, in some senses, the program tended to prepare the construction of the international space station (ISS).The Space Shuttle-Mir  program worked well because astronauts form both sides trained and worked together , and they learned many things that played major role in the building of the ISS. Techniques about how to assembly immense objects in space were tested, a number of EVA was performed to anticipate possible problems and propose solutions about working the vacuum of space. The last Space Shuttle –Mir mission to Mir space station as part of the “phase B”, took place In June, 1998, just few months before the launch of the first module for the International Space Station (ISS), Zarya Module.

International Space Station (ISS)

The concept of building the International Space Station (ISS) derived from the decision taken in 1984 by the US president Ronald Reagan about constructing the permanent space station, the Freedom. But later, that decision was abandoned, and the US officials proposed the ISS project and invited other nations of the world to join the US to build the ISS .In less than one year some countries of the European Space Agency (ESA) and Canada joined the US. In 1991, the Russia agreed to work with the US in the Shuttle-Mir program to prepare the construction of the ISS, and after that program, the Russia launched and placed in orbit the first module of the ISS called Zarya module. More that hundred components were sent in space to build the ISS, but here are its most selected components.

The Zarya module was built by the Russia, but its construction was funded by NASA, so the module belongs to the US. The module was constructed by the Khrunichev State Research and Production Space Center, or called KhSC, in Moscow under contract to The Boeing, the main contractor of the NASA. The module was initially utilized for attitude control until the US-made module; the Node 1 arrived onboard the Space Shuttle Endeavor and joined the Zarya module. The Zarya Module was used for orientation control; communications and electrical power linked to the Node 1 while the station wanted for the arrival of the next component. The Zarya module has a length of 12.6 meters, and its width is 4.1 meters, and theoretically, its lifetime is 15 years. Its electrical power system can provide a power of 3 kilowatts, and the tanks of the module can hold 5.4 cubic metric of propellant. The module is equipped with an attitude control system consisting of 24 large and 12 small steering jets. Two large engines were available and were responsible for reboosting the statin before the arrival the Zvezda module.

The Node 1 (Unity) is the ISS component that serves a way to living and works areas; it was brought by the Space Shuttle mission STS-88, and the ISS has, in total, three Nodes. The Node 1 (Unity) Module has six Common Berthing Mechanisms (CBM) and Each CBM serves as s a mounting point for other modules. The module came alone with two Pressurized Mating Adapters (PMA), PMA-1, attached to the aft CBM that serves as a pressurized tunnel between the Zarya module and Node 1, and  PMA-2, used as a docking port for American Space Shuttles, was originally joined  to the forward CBM. PMA-2 has been relocated several times when new modules were brought. PMA-2 is currently attached to the forward CBM on Node 2.The Node 1 has a length of 5.5 meters and 6.4 meters of diameter, it is made of pure aluminum.  The second Node is the Node 2 (Harmony) has six CBM ports and can harbor more than eight payload racks. The Node 2 is linked to the Destiny Laboratory Module. The Japanese Kibo laboratory connects to the port CBM, while the starboard CBM is occupied by the European Columbus laboratory module. The module is made in aluminum and has a length of 7.2 meters and a width of 4.4 meters; it is 75.5 cubic meters- pressurized module that weigh approximately 14,288 kilometers. The module was brought to the ISS by the STS-120.The third node is the Node 3 (Tranquility), this module also has six CBM ports and can house more than eight standard payload racks. It is linked to the port berthing port on Node (Unity).This module was designed by Italy and brought to the ISS by the STS-130.

Pressurized Mating Adaptors (PMA) serves as interfaces between Common Berthing Mechanisms and spacecraft docking equipment. In the total, the ISS has three PMAs: PMA-1, attached to the aft CBM of Node 1, and links the docking port of the Zarya module, and it came to the ISS onboard the STS-88.The second PMA is PMA-2, and serves as a docking interface for American Space Shuttles. The PMA was originally attached to the forward CBM of Node 1, but it had to be relocated several times when new modules were being brought, and nowadays it attached to the forward CBM on Node 2.The third PMA is PMA-3 which serves as an alternate docking location for American Space Shuttles. The PMA was brought by the STS-92 and originally linked to the nadir, or Earth facing, CBM of Node (Unity).

Zvezda Service Module is the Russian module that was used in the early living places, life support system, electrical power distribution, data processing system, flight control system and propulsion system at the ISS. Its weight is 19,051 kilograms, and its length is about 13.1 was launched atop the Proton rocket in July,2000.The Z-1 Truss is used for communications, electrical distribution, and attitude control tools; The Z-1 is linked to the Zenith Berthing port on Node Unity. The Z-1 is temporally attached with the P-6 Truss that used to give off electrical power in the early times of the construction of the ISS, but it was moved to its eternal place after the construction. The Z-1 was brought to the ISS onboard the STS-92 in October; 2000.The Destiny Laboratory Module is the module located between the Node 1 and Node 2, and is believed to be the core of the US section of the ISS. The module can house 24 standard payload racks. Those racks can be used for different goals, including life support equipment, robotics control stations, crew quarters, waste management, storage, and various scientific experiments designed to take place in orbit, and it has a window that is used to photograph the outside I space. The laboratory was brought to the ISS by the STS-98. The Canadarm2 (SSRMS) known as the Space Station Remote Manipulator is a 17.6 meter robotic arm that is used during assembly and can grab no-automated space vehicles during the docking; this arm has Latching End effectors (LEEs) at each end. This Canadian arm was carried to the ISS by the STS-100 in April 2001.

Joint Airlock (Quest) is a component that is made of two cylindrical chambers (large and small chambers), and its main utility is to support EVAs. The large chamber is used to as storage for EVAs tools, and it used for EVA preparations. The small chamber is used as an exit for astronauts. The Quest was brought to the ISS by the STS- 104.The Docking Compartment 1 (Pirs) is used as an Airlock for EVAs in the case Russian spacesuits are utilized. It is also used as docking port for Soyuz spacecraft; it was brought to the ISS by the Soyuz/ Progress in September 2001.The Mobile Base System (MBS) is moving transporter that is used as a base for the Canadarm, and Dextre, the base was brought to the ISS by the STS-111 on June 2002, and mounted on the main truss. The Columbia Laboratory is pressurized laboratory that was designed and built by ESA, it can hold up to ten standard payload racks, and it also has four points for t external experiments, the module was brought at the ISS by the STS-122, and be attached to the starboard of the Node (Unity).The Kibo Laboratory is a Japanese Lab that has three main parts: the Kibo Pressurized Module serves as an attachment point for the ELM-PS , the Experiment Logistics Module-Pressurized Section that serves as storage, and the exposed Facility that is used as attachment points for diverse experiments and components.

The Mini Research Module-1 (MRM-1) is a Russian module that is used as an additional storage, and can be utilized for Soyuz docking approaches. This module is moored at the Nadir port of the Zarya module. It was brought to the ISS by the STs-132 in May 2010.The Mini Research Module-2 (Poiks) is a module that serves as an Airlock and support spacewalks using Russian spacesuits. It was brought to the ISS in November 2009, using the Modified Progress spacecraft. The Cupola is a conic component of the ISS that serves as a robotic control station for the Canadarm and Dextre. The Cupola has large seven windows that permit astronauts to immensely view the space. It was brought to the ISS by the STS-130 in February 2010.The Permanent Multipurpose Module (PMM) is module was build using a Multi-Purpose Logistics Module (MPLM) ,these types of modules were purposely designed to transfer cargo to and from the ISS. The MPLM was delivered to the ISS by the STS- 133 in February 2011.This voyage of the Space Shuttle that delivered the last piece of the ISS, marked the final time the Space Shuttle program, and the completion of the construction of the ISS.

In one world the desire of the mankind to reach the heaven has led to fantastic progress that will continue to serve a bridge to unlock the secret of space and expend the frontier in it. Building space stations has required the complex knowledge so advanced that many people thought that those adventures had to end in failure. In fact many attempts in sending rockets in space failed because many things about behaviors of space were still unknown, as humans endured loss, they finally got necessary knowledge for placing things in space despite the influence of gravity, and hence an idea that was born as fiction has become a fact. Even though humans have made astonishing steps in studying the behavior of space, it is not ready to reveal it while secret that is why researches continue.


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