In the previous newsletter, we covered some interesting facts on International Space Station. Continuing on the series, today we will cover the history and construction of ISS.
Early days …
The project began as Space Station Freedom, a US-only effort, but was long delayed by funding and technical problems. Following the initial 1980’s authorization (with an intended ten-year construction period) by Ronald Reagan, the Station Freedom concept was designed and renamed in the 1990s to reduce costs and expand international involvement. In 1993, the United States and Russia agreed to merge their separate space station plans into a single facility integrating their respective modules and incorporating contributions from the European Space Agency and Japan. In later months, an international agreement board recruited several more space agencies and companies to collaborate on the project.
The International Organization for Standardization played a crucial role in unifying and overcoming different engineering methods (such as measurements and units), languages, standards, and techniques to ensure quality, engineering communication, and logistical management across all manufacturing activities of the station components.
Moving forward …
The 1990 Space Exploration Initiative called for the construction of Space Station Freedom. Following the presidential announcement, NASA began a set of studies to determine the potential uses for the space station, both in research and in industry, in the U.S. or overseas. This led to the creation of a database of thousands of possible missions and payloads; studies were also carried out to support potential planetary missions, as well as those in low Earth orbit.
Several Space Shuttle missions in the 1980s and early 1990s included spacewalks to demonstrate and test space station construction techniques. After the establishment of the initial baseline design, the project evolved extensively, growing in scope and cost.
The work starts…
The agencies overseeing the manufacturing involved NASA, Roscosmos, the European Space Agency, JAXA, and the Canadian Space Agency. Hundreds of contractors working for the five space agencies were assigned the task of fabricating the modules, trusses, experiments, and other hardware elements for the station.
The fact that the project involved the cooperation of fifteen countries working together created engineering challenges that had to be overcome: most notably the differences in language, culture, and politics, but also engineering processes, management, measuring standards, and communication; to ensure that all elements connect and function according to plan.
In the next article, we will continue on the manufacturing of the different modules and transportation.