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In previous article, we covered some interesting facts on the history of ISS. Today let’s see how the various components were made (in brief) and transported.

ISS Blueprint
ISS Blueprint

Please check this link for high resolution image.
https://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/3/3c/ISS_blueprint.png

The manufacturing of ISS took a modular approach where different countries and space organisation taking the lead and control in design and manufacturing of each modules, which were ~40 in count. The wide variety of materials involved included high grades of steel, Kevlar, ceramic, Titanium, Aluminum alloys and lots of composites. The weight of each module varied from ~2000 kg to 20,000 kg.

Truss & Solar Arrays, being made by Lockheed Martin
Truss & Solar Arrays, being made by Lockheed Martin

Transportation of each modules…

Once manufactured or fabricated sufficiently, most of the space station elements were transported by aircraft (usually the Airbus Beluga or the Antonov An-124) to the Kennedy Space Center Space Station Processing Facility for final manufacturing stages, checks and launch processing. Some elements arrived by ship at Port Canaveral.

Each module for aircraft transport was safely housed in a custom-designed shipping container with foam insulation and an outer shell of sheet metal, to protect it from damage and the elements. At their respective European, Russian and Japanese factories, the modules were transported to their nearest airport by road in their containers, loaded into the cargo aircraft and were flown to Kennedy Space Center’s Shuttle Landing Facility for unloading and final transfers to the SSPF and or the Operations and Checkout Building in the KSC industrial area. The American and Canadian-built components such as the US lab, Node 1, Quest airlock, truss and solar array segments, and the Canadarm-2 were either flown by the Aero Spacelines Super Guppy to KSC, or transported by road and rail.

The European Columbus module being unloaded from the Airbus Beluga at the Shuttle Landing Facility The European Columbus module being unloaded from the Airbus Beluga at the Shuttle Landing Facility
The European Columbus module being unloaded from the Airbus Beluga at the Shuttle Landing Facility The European Columbus module being unloaded from the Airbus Beluga at the Shuttle Landing Facility

After final stages of manufacturing, systems testing and launch checkout, all ISS components are loaded into a payload transfer container in the shape of the Space Shuttle payload bay. This container safely carries the component in its launch configuration until it is hoisted vertically at the launch pad gantry for transfer to the Space Shuttle orbiter for launch and in-orbit assembly of the International Space Station.

So, the different modules are ready. In the next article, we will cover the assembly of ISS.

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