INTERNATIONAL SPACE STATION 20TH ANNIVERSARY FIRST ELEMENTS LAUNCH
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Soaring to new heights. At FedEx, weâ€™re proud to salute those who have overcome obstacles to achieve noteworthy accomplishments. They are a constant reminder that when you fuse passion, power, and purpose, itâ€™s possible to ascend to unimagined heights. Congratulations on the 20th anniversary of the International Space Station.
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COMMERCIAL PARTNERSHIP Northrop Grumman Salutes the ISS 20th Anniversary. Northrop Grumman is proud to provide commercial resupply services to the astronaut crews aboard the International Space Station, and being a partner to NASA helping it to fulfill its mission of human exploration and scientific discovery.
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PREPARING FOR LIFT-OFF EUROPE’S FIRST ORBITAL SPACEPORT IN SCOTLAND
DESIGN • BUILD • LAUNCH • MISSION CONTROL • DATA COLLECTION • DELIVERY
In July 2018, funding announcements by UKSA and HIE confirmed that Sutherland, in the far north of Scotland, will be the home of the UK’s first spaceport. Building on Scotland’s expertise in the small satellite sector, this facility will mean that everything from designing, building and launching satellites can happen in Scotland, along with processing the data gathered by them once they are in orbit.
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Anticipation and a cold wind greeted us early on the morning of November 20, 1998. We were anxious to begin the ISS, but not sure where it would take us. November 20, 2018 marked 20 years since that day when we launched the International Space Station’s first module, Zarya, into orbit. It took more than a dozen years and 40 separate launches to assemble the initial configuration of station. Today, the space station is the largest, most complex vehicle ever to orbit Earth and has been continuously occupied for more than 18 years. On the ISS, we’ve accomplished an unprecedented amount of work, with more than 2600 scientific investigations conducted by researchers from more than a hundred countries. Our knowledge of how the human body works in micro-gravity continues to increase, and we continue to test new technologies that will enable humans in space to explore further beyond Earth than ever before. There is much more to come from medical research aboard the ISS National Laboratory. You’ll be hearing a lot about human organs on chips, a medical breakthrough that may revolutionize the way we model and develop medicine, as well as several other on-going investigations. The research conducted in space will be used to benefit humanity here on Earth. One of our greatest challenges has been to foster commercial industry in lowEarth orbit. In the coming years we will meet this challenge head-on with our commercial partners. Today on ISS, we have commercial companies developing and operating facilities, designing and testing modules, as well as companies focusing on transporting cargo and crew. Boeing’s Starliner and SpaceX’s Crew Dragon are set to carry astronauts to the station for the first time in the very near future. We expect the cadence of flights, the number of crew on-board, and the amount of scientific research conducted on the orbiting laboratory to increase. The space station is evolving, and the pace of its evolution is speeding up. There’s a lot happening on the International Space Station and the best way to keep up to date is to follow the program online. Follow us on NASA.gov, and on our social media channels, including Facebook, Instagram and Twitter. Thanks for your interest in our International Space Station.
Regards, KIRK SHIREMAN International Space Station Program Manager
20 Years of Mission Fulfillment in Near-Zero Gravity
In November 1998, the 1st piece of the International Space Station (ISS) flew into orbit. Since 2000, crews from 18 countries have kept a continuous human presence in space, a gigantic feat thanks to cutting-edge research and development. The R&D pushing the limits in space also improves our lives on Earth. That’s why Siemens invests in digital technologies that will help optimize the design, planning, and testing of next-generation aerospace products. Now, spacecraft and aircraft evaluation can be performed virtually, so companies can fly an aircraft before they even build it. That means lower costs and faster innovation—and even bigger aerospace advances that benefit all of humankind.
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Siemens congratulates the International Space Station on its 20th Anniversary.
International Space Station I 20th Anniversary
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THE INTERNATIONAL SPACE STATION A Renaissance in Space Exploration and Research BY CRAIG COLLINS
DESIGN AND ASSEMBLY OF THE INTERNATIONAL SPACE STATION BY CRAIG COLLINS
INTERNATIONAL Space Station elements
LOOKING FORWARD The Future of the International Space Station and Long-term Spaceflight BY CRAIG COLLINS
PARTNERSHIPS International Collaboration in Low-Earth Orbit and Beyond BY CRAIG COLLINS
Tech Transfer on Steroids NASAâ€™s Effort to Boost Commercial Spaceflight BY JAN TEGLER
ISS and the Emerging Space Economy BY EDWARD GOLDSTEIN
Boeing and the International Space Station BY J.R. WILSON
A Narrative Around the Details ISS Challenges and Anomalies BY ERIC TEGLER
ISS: The Program Managers Speak BY J.R. WILSON
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INTERNATIONAL SPACE STATION 20TH ANNIVERSARY FIRST ELEMENTS LAUNCH
Published by Faircount Media Group 4915 W. Cypress St. Tampa, FL 33607 Tel: 813.639.1900 www.defensemedianetwork.com www.faircount.com EDITORIAL Editor in Chief: Chuck Oldham Managing Editor: Ana E. Lopez Editor: Rhonda Carpenter Contributing Writers: Craig Collins, Edward Goldstein, Eric Tegler, Jan Tegler, J.R. Wilson DESIGN AND PRODUCTION Art Director/Project Designer: Robin K. McDowall Designer: Rebecca Laborde ADVERTISING Ad Sales Manager: Geoffrey Weiss Account Executives: Andrew Moss, John Caianello OPERATIONS AND ADMINISTRATION Chief Operating Officer: Lawrence Wayne Roberts VP, Business Development: Robin Jobson Business Development: Damion Harte Business Analytics Manager: Colin Davidson Accounting Manager: Joe Gonzalez Marketing Interns: Ryan Hansen, Matthew Nussbaum, Kai Seymour FAIRCOUNT MEDIA GROUP Publisher, North America: Ross Jobson
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International Space Station I 20th Anniversary
THE INTERNATIONAL SPACE STATION A Renaissance in Space Exploration and Research
bout a century before humans had the technology to do anything about it, their longing to slip the bonds of Earth was overpowering enough to inspire some eerily prescient fantasies about living in space. “The Brick Moon,” perhaps the first written mention of a crewed space station, was a novella published serially in The Atlantic by Edward Everett Hale in 1869, four years after Jules Verne’s novel From the Earth to the Moon. Hale’s plot follows the narrator’s scholarly companions as they fashion a 200-foot sphere made of bricks – iron, the narrator explains, would have been too heavy – and accidentally launch it into space with 37 of them aboard. Though the brick moon’s inhabitants never figure out how to return to Earth, they survive by growing crops. By the 1960s, science (not to mention science fiction) had advanced considerably, to the point where the United States and the Soviet Union were launching manned spacecraft into orbit and were already
plotting how to apply their new technologies to support long-duration human spaceflight. With its Salyut program, the Soviet Union launched the first crewed space stations beginning in 1971. NASA research centers had been mulling rudimentary designs for an American space station since the early 1960s, based on a modified Apollo Command/ Service Module (CSM) with an attached laboratory. The Apollo Applications Program, formally launched in 1967, was focused on long-duration flights in low-Earth orbit, and led to the design of the American space station known as Skylab, which orbited Earth from 1973 to 1979. Today’s International Space Station bears imprints of both the Salyut and Skylab programs: A Soyuz capsule remained permanently docked at Salyut stations, to provide a means of emergency escape, while the Apollo CSM served the same function for Skylab. American and Soviet crews conducted experiments inside the modules and performed
A labeled artist’s conception of Apollo Applications Program (AAP) Skylab Cluster.
spacewalks for exterior maintenance. The “second-generation” Salyut stations, Salyut 6 and 7, each had two ports to allow resupply by cargo spacecraft. The voluminous Skylab, built from a hollowed-out upper stage of NASA’s Saturn V moon rocket, was launched unmanned in May 1973 and visited by three-man astronaut crews who served on missions lasting between 28 and 84 days. The interior of Skylab, divided into tiered decks, was designed with habitability in mind, with a wardroom and private sleeping quarters separate from the laboratory. In 1969, as the Apollo Moon landing drew near, President Richard Nixon directed the formation of a Space Task Group that would define goals for NASA’s post-Apollo space program. The agency was on the threshold of history, about to do something unthinkable just years earlier, and the president wanted NASA to define how it might build on its ability to visit the Moon. The group envisioned a number of possibilities, including crewed satellites in Earth or lunar orbit, human travel to Mars, and “space transportation systems that carry their payloads into orbit and then return and land as a conventional jet aircraft.” In their report, the Space Task Group called for a space station to support the goal of landing on Mars. A budget that would fund both a space station and a reusable Space Transportation System (STS, or Space Shuttle, as it was soon colloquially known) seemed unlikely, so NASA focused first on the shuttle, as the use of expendable rockets to build and supply an orbiting base would exceed the cost of the base itself. A Space Shuttle, with a laboratory within it, would allow capabilities to be studied and harnessed while new technologies were researched. The Space Shuttle Program was already well underway by the time Skylab was launched into orbit.
BY CRAIG COLLINS
An overhead view of the Skylab space station cluster in Earth orbit as photographed from the Skylab 4 Command and Service Module (CSM) during the final fly-around by the CSM before returning home in February 1974. Note the solar shield, which was deployed by the second crew of Skylab and from which a micro meteoroid shield had been missing since the cluster was launched on May 14, 1973. The Orbital Workshop (OWS) solar panel on the left side was also lost on workshop launch day. Skylab was Americaâ€™s
first space station.
INTERNATIONAL SPACE STATION
Celebrating 20 years of innovation and unity
The horizon beckons us all With technical expertise in IT, engineering, and science, Leidos is proud to enable more mission for organizations that conduct space exploration, advance human spaceflight, and encourage the world to think beyond the horizon. leidos.com/space
photo via sputnik nasa image
TOP: Cosmonauts Vladimir Dzhanibekov and Georgy Grechko took this photo of the Russian Salyut 7 space station and the Soyuz T-14 spacecraft from the Soyuz T-13 spacecraft. The Salyuts were the first manned space stations. ABOVE: An artist’s conception illustrating a cutaway view of the Skylab 1 Orbital Workshop (OWS). The OWS was one of the five major components of the Skylab 1 space station cluster that was launched by a Saturn V on May 14, 1973, into Earth orbit.
Two international partners helped NASA meet the Space Shuttle Program’s mission requirements. In 1969, NASA invited Canada to develop a robotic arm for use in deploying, maneuvering, and capturing orbiter payloads. In August 1973, NASA signed a memorandum of understanding with the European Space Research Organization, predecessor to today’s European Space Agency (ESA), to build a scientific laboratory for use on Space Shuttle flights. These 5.4-meter-long by 4.12-meter-diameter cylindrical “Spacelab” modules would fit securely into the payload bays of shuttle orbiters and connect to crew compartments via a narrower “tunnel” cylinder. The robotic Canadarm entered orbit aboard the first space-capable orbiter, Columbia, in November 1981, and was first used in March 1982 to deploy and maneuver a Plasma Diagnostics package. The first Spacelab module was launched in Columbia’s payload bay in November 1983. The tenday mission saw the conduct of 72 scientific experiments, in fields ranging from plasma physics to astrobiology. While the Space Shuttle Program had been nearing its first launch, a NASA study group was conceptualizing what it called the Space Operations Center, a shuttle-serviced, permanently crewed facility in low-Earth orbit. After the election of Ronald Reagan to the presidency in 1980, the agency formed a Space Station Task Force that commissioned studies from eight aerospace contractors focused on space station needs, attributes, and architectural options. From the start, NASA envisioned a space station as an international collaboration, and invited prospective partners to an orientation briefing in 1982. Europe, Japan, and Canada became informal observers of the contractor studies, which were released in the spring of 1983. The studies offered a variety of options for how a future space station might be configured and built, but several key details – how building blocks could be optimized for transport in a shuttle payload bay, for example, or how the module interiors should be composed – remained vague. One important detail, however, emerged consistently among all eight studies: the modular, incremental approach to assembly. It made sense not only logistically, but also geopolitically: Modular assembly would encourage collaboration by allowing international partners to design their own building blocks to best serve the organization’s needs. In December 1983, Reagan directed NASA to continue with the effort to design and build a space station.
International Space Station I 20th Anniversary
Astronaut Jerry L. Ross, anchored to the foot restraint on the remote manipulator system (RMS), holds onto the tower-like Assembly Concept for Construction of Erectable Space Structures (ACCESS) device, as the Atlantis flies over white clouds and blue ocean waters.
In his State of the Union Address delivered in January 1984, Reagan announced the nation’s commitment to building a space station in collaboration with international partners. “Tonight,” he said, “I am directing NASA to develop a permanently manned space station and to do it within a decade. … We want our friends to help us meet these challenges and share in their benefits. NASA will invite other countries to participate so we can strengthen peace, build prosperity, and expand freedom for all who share our goals.” Conspicuously absent among the partners whom Reagan believed to share American goals was the Soviet Union, which was already building on the successes of its Salyut program and developing a “third generation” space station: Mir, the world’s first multi-module station, which would be assembled in orbit from 1986 to 1996. The Americans and Soviets had collaborated on the Apollo-Soyuz Test Program in the 1970s, but tensions between the two Cold War adversaries had ratcheted up since the inauguration of Reagan, who branded the Soviet Union an “evil empire” in a 1983 speech. Shortly after Reagan’s State of the Union Address, NASA administrator James Beggs described the agency’s vision for the station. It would consist of three orbiting facilities: an occupied base, an autonomous co-orbiting platform, and another automated platform in a polar orbit. It would also provide eight capabilities in one package: • a laboratory in space; • a permanent observatory for Earth and the universe; • a transportation node and operations base for vehicles and payloads; • an assembly facility; • a servicing facility; • a factory for space hardware and systems; • a storage depot; and • a staging base for lunar or deep-space missions. It was an ambitious concept, and Beggs immediately set out to find partners to share the work. In 1984, NASA signed agreements
with the European Space Agency (ESA) and with Japan’s National Space Development Agency (NASDA) to provide their own laboratory modules for the station. With the support of the president and Congress, NASA established a Space Station Program Office at Johnson Space Center, Houston, and in April 1985, the office awarded several contracts to conduct definition studies and preliminary design. That same year, the agency launched a pair of experiments, ACCESS and EASE, aboard the shuttle Atlantis. The experiments demonstrated the feasibility of astronauts assembling large structures in space, but also suggested that the favored “Dual Keel” design, featuring a long central truss with earthward and spaceward booms, would be challenging, and expensive, to build. NASA’s projected cost for its modules – a laboratory, centrifuge, and living quarters – was also proving to have been optimistically low. Over the next several years, as designs were hashed out and details emerged, tradeoffs were made between development costs and operating costs. The wisdom of designing a station for assembling and servicing hardware that didn’t exist yet, for programs yet to be funded – spacecraft for deep-space explorations, for example – was questioned, and station designers were forced to make hard choices. For the station to be financially feasible, its purpose would focus, at least
initially, on its role as a research laboratory and observatory. The United States, NASA, and its space station program suffered a tragic blow on Jan. 28, 1986. The Space Shuttle Challenger, departing for its 10th flight, exploded 73 seconds after liftoff, killing all seven crewmembers aboard. The accident resulted in a two-anda-half-year grounding of the shuttle fleet, and discussions in the wake of the disaster led to reduced flight schedules, as well as reductions in the amount of cargo allowed aboard each orbiter. The renewed emphasis on safety led to an insistence that an escape craft or “lifeboat” be docked at the station at all times. Growing costs were one factor in the decision to pare down the Dual Keel design into what was known as the “Revised Baseline Configuration,” featuring a single horizontal truss with modules clustered near the center and solar arrays at the ends. In 1988, as this design moved into full development with main contractors Boeing, McDonnell Douglas, GE-Aerospace, and Rockwell, Reagan gave it a name: Space Station Freedom. 1988 also marked a milestone in the international collaboration of space agencies, as a multilateral agreement was signed by the United States, Japan, Canada, and nine member nations of the ESA. The four space agencies signed memoranda of understanding outlining the contributions each would provide to the space station: Europe and Japan agreed
TO THE DRAWING BOARD: SPACE STATION FREEDOM
An artist’s conception of Space Station Freedom dating from 1991. While the design changed significantly, some of the elements common to Space Station Freedom and the International Space Station
are evident here.
to build laboratory modules, and Canada agreed to build a Mobile Servicing System (MSS), consisting of a robotic arm and a trolley system that would move it along the truss. In return for providing services, such as power and crew and cargo transport, NASA obtained rights to use half the research facilities in the European and Japanese modules. The first year of President George H.W. Bush’s administration was a rocky start for the new space station venture. While Space Shuttle flights had resumed, the program was still plagued by delays and climbing costs. Bush envisioned the space station as a critical component of NASA’s Space Exploration Initiative (SEI), which would have placed Americans back on the Moon in 1989. The station would have been an assembly point for the lunar missions, but SEI was terminated because of insufficient funding being appropriated. Some of NASA’s budget was
being devoted to building shuttle Endeavour to replace the lost Challenger, and the NASA human spaceflight budget was being devoted to the space station. NASA was forced once again to temper its ambitions for the space station. Ongoing redesigns reduced the length of the U.S. habitation and laboratory modules to 27 feet, in part because the original 45-footlong modules, when fully outfitted and integrated, would have been too heavy for the shuttle to carry into orbit. Redesigns also reduced both the length and cross-section of the longitudinal truss. As work continued, in 1991 an event that would have major significance for the future of the space station project was underway. In December of that year, the Soviet Union collapsed and dissolved as a functioning state. Seemingly overnight, the Cold War was over. The Russian space program, however, had
been going strong. The Mir space station, its cosmonauts now citizens of a yet-to-benamed country, was still being assembled in low-Earth orbit, though its future, and the future of the Russian space program, were faced with uncertainty. With the collapse of the Soviet Union, collaborative work with the Russians gained new importance. In 1992, NASA personnel made the first trip to Russia to look into use of the Soyuz as a crew rescue vehicle. This expanded into considering use of a Russian docking module and airlock, and subsequently this effort was broadened to include the Shuttle-Mir mission and later to multiple missions of the shuttle to Mir.
RUSSIAN RESCUE It’s no exaggeration to say that in 1993, when President William J. Clinton took office, the space station was on the brink of elimination; the White House budget director recommended canceling the program outright, and the House of Representatives came within a single vote of zeroing it out in NASA’s budget.
International Space Station I 20th Anniversary
This view of the Space Shuttle Atlantis still connected to Russia’s Mir Space Station was photographed by the Mir-19 crew on July 4, 1995.
NASA, with the support of Vice President Al Gore, ordered yet another redesign. There were three configurations considered, called Alpha, Beta, and Charlie. Alpha used some 75 percent of the Space Station Freedom hardware, and subsequently most of the hardware that had previously been deleted was added back. While one segment of truss was removed from each side, it was essentially the same as Space Station Freedom in appearance and capability, envisioned as a world-class research laboratory in three fields: microgravity, life sciences, and technology. Meanwhile, within a month of taking office in April 1992, NASA Administrator Daniel Goldin was contacted by Yuri Koptev, his counterpart at the Russian federal space agency, who suggested the two agencies might combine their resources to build and operate a space station. Russia had already begun building modules for its planned Mir-2 station, but the future of the Russian program, given the new
country’s political and fiscal circumstances, was precarious. Shortly after, in June 1992, Boris Yeltsin and Bush signed an expanded space exploration agreement that considered flying Russian cosmonauts on a U.S. Space Shuttle mission, sending a U.S. astronaut to Mir for an extended flight, and pursuing the possibility of docking the Space Shuttle with Mir in 1994 or 1995. This joint effort was called the Shuttle-Mir Program. The advantages to including Russian hardware and expertise in the space station program were clear, for both geopolitical and pragmatic reasons. In terms of the station’s capabilities, NASA claimed Russian participation would allow it to be built a year sooner, cost $2 billion less than the Alpha design, have 25 percent more usable volume, generate 42.5 kilowatts more electrical power, and accommodate six crew members instead of the planned four. The ability to park two Soyuz capsules permanently at the station (one Soyuz would
be required for each three crewmembers) took pressure off NASA and its partners to develop their own crew return vehicle. Progress spacecraft, the expendable Russian cargo carriers, could aid in supplying the station. On Sept. 2, 1993, Gore and Prime Minister Viktor Chernomyrdin signed an accord merging Mir-2 and Space Station Alpha into a single project that would soon be known simply as the International Space Station (ISS). On the American side, NASA’s Johnson Space Center took the lead, and Boeing signed on as the prime contractor. The existing Shuttle-Mir program was expanded to become Phase 1 of the new ISS program, and added a whole series of shuttle flights to the Mir Orbital Station. A few months later, in February 1994, cosmonaut Sergei Krikalev – who had been stranded in orbit when the Soviet Union fell and forced to stay an extra six months aboard Mir after a cancelled Soyuz flight – joined the crew of the Space Shuttle Discovery to become the first cosmonaut to fly aboard an American orbiter. About a year later, astronaut Norman Thagard became the first American to serve aboard Mir, joining a threemonth expedition whose crewmembers were brought home aboard the Space Shuttle Atlantis. In November 1995, Atlantis delivered a Russian-built docking module to the station, marking a milestone: the first addition of a module to a working space station in orbit. The revamped ISS design had already taken shape. It was based on a modified Space Station Alpha, somewhat bigger, with some of the formerly deleted pieces added back. It comprised a horizontal truss perpendicular to the station’s flight path, and modules clustered near the truss’s centerline, mostly at right angles to the truss. The truss was arranged symmetrically, with four pairs of solar arrays extending from each end. The Russian-built but U.S.-funded Functional Cargo Block, named Zarya, was the primary early Russian contribution, along with the Zvezda Service Module (the same as the Core Module or Base Block of the earlier Mir and a direct successor of the earlier Salyut stations). The main thing to disappear from the U.S.-provided systems was the propulsion system. The station was now totally reliant on Russian-provided propulsion. Early on, Russia would also provide the habitation and life support functions, and the Soyuz would provide the emergency return capability. By 1997, NASA had begun shifting funds from
ABOVE: Cosmonaut Sergei Krikalev. TOP RIGHT: Astronauts and cosmonauts assigned to missions dealing with the development of the International Space Station join various officials at the Khrunichev Space Center in Moscow. From the left are astronauts Frederick W. Sturckow, Jerry L. Ross, unidentified guest, astronaut Robert D. Cabana, unidentified guest, astronauts Nancy J. Currie-Gregg and James H. Newman, unidentified guest, cosmonaut Yuri P. Gidzenko and astronaut William M. Shepherd. Cabana, Sturckow, Ross, Newman, and Currie-Gregg were members of the STS-88 crew that linked the U.S.-built Unity Node to the Russian-built Zarya control module. Gidzenko and Shepherd were members of the Expedition 1 crew, who became the first permanent occupants of the station. RIGHT: Senior government officials from 15 countries participating in the International Space Station (ISS) signed agreements in Washington, D.C., on Jan. 29, 1998, to establish the framework of cooperation among the partners on the design, development, operation, and utilization of the space station. Node 1
of the ISS is in the background.
space station evaluations and studies into space station construction. In January 1998 the ISS partners â€“ the United States, Russia, Japan, Canada, and nine participating ESA nations â€“ signed a new Intergovernmental Agreement on Space Station Cooperation (IGA) and three memoranda of understanding outlining the duties, rights, and responsibilities of each of the members, under the overall leadership of program manager NASA. The Americans and
Zarya, the first component of the International Space Station (ISS), launched flawlessly at 1:40 a.m. (EST) on Nov. 20, 1998. Atop a Russian Proton rocket, the Zarya module was lifted into orbit from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan.
Russians would supply the building blocks – the main living, working, and utility modules – while Europe and Japan would contribute laboratories (Columbus and Kibo, respectively) and other modules. Canada would contribute a robotic arm, Canadarm2, that would help with berthing, assembly, and maintenance. The larger structures would be lifted by Space Shuttle orbiters from Kennedy Space Center, or by Proton rockets from Baikonur Cosmodrome, Kazakhstan. The ESA would contribute logistical and supply launches with Ariane rockets from the Guiana Space Center, Korou, French Guiana, and Japan with HII-A rockets from Tanegashima Space Center in the Osumi Islands.
THE UTILIZATION ERA: ON THE THRESHOLD OF DEEP SPACE With its partnerships formalized, a workable design funded by Congress, and building
blocks under construction, the International Space Station was finally ready to take shape in orbit, about 250 miles above Earth. As ISS partners built hardware and planned for the assembly to begin, NASA reminded the American public of its rationale for undertaking one of the most ambitious construction programs in history. The ISS mission – “to enable longterm exploration of space and provide benefits to people on Earth” – included nine objectives: • To create a permanent orbiting science institute in space capable of performing long-duration research in the materials and life sciences areas in a nearly gravity-free environment. • To conduct medical research in space. • To develop new materials and processes in collaboration with industry. • To accelerate breakthroughs in technology and engineering that would have immediate, practical applications for life on Earth – and will create jobs and eco-
nomic opportunities today and in the decades to come. • To maintain U.S. leadership in space and in global competitiveness, and to serve as a driving force for emerging technologies. • To forge new partnerships with the nations of the world. • To inspire the nation’s children, foster the next generation of scientists, engineers, and entrepreneurs, and satisfy humanity’s ancient need to explore and achieve. • To invest for today and tomorrow. Every dollar spent on space programs returns at least $2 in direct and indirect benefits. • To sustain and strengthen the United States’ strongest export sector – aerospace technology – which in 1995 exceeded $33 billion. The first two building blocks of the ISS were launched in late 1998. On Nov. 20, the control module Zarya (Russian for “sunrise,” to signal a new era of cooperation between Russia and the United States) was lifted into low-Earth orbit by a Proton rocket from Baikonur. Zarya, also known as the Functional Cargo Block, or FGB, was joined shortly afterward by the first American module, Unity (Node 1). The assembly of the International Space Station in itself comprises an epic story. It took about 15 years to build the station in orbit, a process that saw further modifications to the overall plan (see “Design and Assembly” article). After the tragic loss of another Space Shuttle orbiter, Columbia, and its crewmembers in 2003, assembly was delayed – and when it resumed 30 months later, it was with an eye to easing the strain on the existing fleet. Two key components – the centrifuge module, an effort that had been taken up by Japan; and a Russian Science Power Platform – were canceled. A major milestone for the International Space Station was finally achieved on May 16, 2011, when the last flight of the Space Shuttle Endeavour delivered one of the station’s most important experimental packages: the Alpha Magnetic Spectrometer (AMS-02), an antimatter detector that will aid scientists in understanding the origins of the universe. Several modifications to the ISS have been made since 2011, but that date marked the
International Space Station I 20th Anniversary Robert. D. Cabana, left, and Sergei Krikalev inside the Pressurized Mating Adapter (PMA) connected to the Russian-built Zarya module. Cabana and Krikalev were the first to enter the station, and with their crewmates installed needed equipment aboard Zarya and the U.S.-built
end of the assembly phase of the ISS project and the dawn of another: the utilization phase, the era in which the station would make its contributions to the global commons through a mature and robust research and development program. The utilization phase is less than a decade old, and its history is still being written – but long before assembly complete, the ISS had already recorded remarkable breakthroughs, achievements, and benefits for humanity. Some of the earliest and most obvious benefits were in the form of technology transfers and adaptation. The system developed by NASA to recycle ISS wastewater into drinkable water, for example, has been adapted all over the globe into filtration systems that can provide drinkable water without the need for electrical power. The first of these groundbased water filtration systems was installed in northern Iraq in 2006, and in the years since, collaborations between aid organizations have demonstrated how aerospace technology can help to solve global problems, with applications including home water purifiers in India, village-wide systems throughout Latin America, and even individual survival kits that can be distributed as first response devices for natural and humanitarian disasters. Several medical innovations have been spun off from the ISS’s robotic arm, Canadarm2, and Dextre, the robotic handyman that can be mounted at the arm’s end. Among the first was neuroArm, the first surgical robot capable of being guided by a magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) machine. In May 2008, a Canadian surgical team completed the first surgical removal of a brain lesion, a meningioma tumor, with neuroArm.
Some of the technologies aboard the ISS are already directly benefiting lives on Earth. Unlike many Earth-imaging satellites, which typically use polar orbits, the station is close to the planet and offers plentiful opportunities for imaging vegetation and forests in temperate regions. Imaging and remote-sensing technologies aboard the ISS have already proved valuable in helping tropical island communities to understand and manage changing reef ecosystems; in monitoring flooding and providing agricultural information to North American farmers; in collecting data on the depth and clarity of coastal waters and the characteristics of littoral seabeds; in monitoring the lagoon surrounding Venice, Italy; in providing high-resolution images of the flooding caused by Japan’s 2011 tsunami, and more. In 2014, to boost the station’s Earth-sensing capabilities, NASA announced that it would install several new instruments for monitoring ocean winds, clouds and atmospheric particulates, the ozone layer, lightning, forest canopies, and water content in vegetation. In January 2012, the ISS helped to save a life at sea after the Icelandic fishing trawler Hallgrímur, out of range of coastal tracking stations, capsized and sank in a storm off the coast of Norway. The Earth’s curvature blocked the signal from reaching land, but the ESA, curious to know if a receiver mounted on the ISS could track ships out of terrestrial range, had mounted a test receiver on the station’s exterior. ISS astronauts did receive the Hallgrímur’s distress signal, and relayed it to the Royal Norwegian Air Force, which dispatched a helicopter to the spot. The ship’s sole survivor, who had spent several hours in the water, was found and rescued.
Through various programs such as Teaching from Space, in-flight education downlinks, and others, the ISS has become an invaluable tool for teaching young people around the world about these technologies and encouraging careers in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM). Space station astronauts and cosmonauts have shared their daily routines with schoolchildren, allowed university students to assume remote control of the station’s imaging cameras, and challenged grade school students to design experiments for the microgravity environment. Science is now the primary focus of the ISS mission, and the story of the utilization phase is mostly the story of research and development in space. Throughout the more than 17 years that humans have lived and worked continuously aboard the station, more than 2,400 experiments from researchers in more than 100 countries have been hosted aboard the unique microgravity laboratory. NASA’s 2005 authorization designated the U.S. Orbital Segment a National Laboratory, and when it selected the nonprofit Center for Advancement of Science in Space (CASIS) to manage the laboratory in 2011, it was with the explicit focus on space research aimed at improving life on Earth. Much of the research activity on the ISS takes the form of fundamental investigations and basic observations, which can take years to unfold and produce tangible results – but some of these investigations have already shown great promise. To mention just a few: • In the microgravity environment of the ISS, crewmembers experience bone loss at a rate of about 10 times that of people who suffer from osteoporosis. Studies of space-induced bone loss have shown where the greatest loss occurs, and suggested countermeasures – such as energy intake, vitamin D, and strenuous resistance exercises – that can be used to counteract it. • The ability to grow larger, higher-quality protein crystals in microgravity has enabled the development of a new drug for treating Duchenne Muscular Dystrophy (DMD). Scientists, using crystals grown on the ISS, were able to formulate a drug, TAS-205, targeting
Unity connecting node.
LEFT: Expedition 56 flight engineer Sergey Prokopyev, from Roscosmos, works with Plasma Kristall-4 (PK-4) science hardware inside the International Space Station’s Columbus laboratory module from ESA (European Space Agency). The space physics study is investigating complex plasmas consisting of low temperature gaseous mixtures composed of ionized gas, neutral gas, and micron-sized particles. The results could benefit future spacecraft design and affect industries on Earth. BELOW LEFT: Expedition 45/46 commander, astronaut Scott Kelly (right) along with his brother, former Astronaut Mark Kelly, speak to news media outlets about Scott Kelly’s one-year
mission aboard the International Space Station.
a specific location on the protein. Based on terrestrial research in animal subjects, researchers think the drug may be able to double the lifespan of people with DMD, an incurable genetic disorder. • The Russian-German Plasma Kristall Experiment laboratory has provided the knowledge base for medical spinoffs for the use of cold plasma in medical applications, for the disinfection of wounds, acceleration of healing, and even the inactivation of cancerous tumors. Much of the research conducted aboard the ISS is aimed at solving the problems of long-term space expeditions. A crewed mission to Mars is likely to take 3 years or more, and researchers aboard the station are helping answer questions about how to enable humans to live, work and remain healthy in space for extended periods. Among the things ISS researchers have learned: • Plants can be genetically modified to grow better and provide more nutrients when grown in microgravity. • DNA damage caused by space radiation (specifically, to frozen mouse sperm) does not affect the viability of offspring – and the Japanese Space Pup investigation has revealed that much of this damage is mitigated or repaired after fertilization.
• The ISS Twins Study, which compared identical twin NASA astronauts Mark and Scott Kelly after Scott’s nearly year-long stay aboard the station, revealed that long-term spaceflight is associated with oxygen deprivation stress, increased inflammation, and dramatic shifts in gene expression cause by changes in nutrient uptake. The nine-part mission articulated by NASA in the late 1990s has been largely fulfilled in part due to the agency’s efforts, since 2005, to promote a commercial market in low-Earth orbit. NASA’s research partners in space now include not only international partners, but also a growing number of private entities. These collaborations have provided the space station with new or updated capabilities while opening new markets to companies. Even small businesses, such as NanoRacks and Space Tango, who offer hardware and launch/flight support for private customers’ ISS-based experiments, have established a presence in space. The growing number of private-sector partners has had a significant economic impact around the world. The $33 billion in American aerospace exports NASA reported in 1995 has more than quadrupled, reaching $143 billion in 2017. The ESA’s studies of the station’s economic impact have concluded that every 100
jobs in the space sector generate 90 additional jobs in the European economy, and the ISS adds 210,000 jobs annually to the labor market. In 1962, in his famous speech at Rice University, President John F. Kennedy explained his administration’s rationale for going to the Moon, saying that one of the reasons the United States needed to “set sail on this new sea” was because the new field of space science needed the guidance of American values. “For space science,” he said, “like nuclear science and all technology, has no conscience of its own. Whether it will become a force for good or ill depends on man.” Now that science has taken center stage in the ISS program, with research consuming the intended share of astronaut and cosmonaut working time, the unique space laboratories offered to the world’s scientists have generated what may by the station’s most important overall benefit, if perhaps its most difficult to quantify: the increased access to, and interest in, peaceful cooperation in space. In 2011, for example, a group of fifth-graders from New York were able to send their experiment, a study of microgravity’s effect on fish eggs, to the ISS by becoming customers of NanoRacks, which helped them package their payload and get it into one of the locker spaces in the Japanese-made Kibo module. The partnership that was formalized among a dozen international partners in 1998 has grown to involve the participation of nearly a hundred more countries, dozens of private contractors, and public and private foundations. It’s an unprecedented pool of talent and knowledge, ready to propel humanity into the next era of spaceflight – the coming “space renaissance,” foreseen by agency heads around the world, that will see humans make their way to Mars, and perhaps beyond – and it will have sprung from the success of one of the most ambitious and challenging international collaborations ever attempted.
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DESIGN AND ASSEMBLY OF THE INTERNATIONAL SPACE STATION
ometime around 1985, just after the Reagan administration had given the green light for NASA to build a space station in low-Earth orbit, in Building 15 at the Johnson Space Center, engineers were assembling a mockup of one of the station’s modules. The model, built specifically to fit into the payload bay of a Space Shuttle orbiter, looked a lot like the reusable Spacelab modules supplied by the European Space Agency, with lots of systems packed into the floor and equipment racks along the walls. “The module was around 47 feet long,” said Gary Kitmacher, who was then an architectural manager for the Man-Systems Division of NASA’s Life Sciences Directorate, “and there were hatches on either end and four hatches around the outer part on one of the ends. We called that the Common Module. Most people thought that was the best way to build a module, and that’s what we started out with.” As it turned out, the model being put together in Houston wasn’t quite the best NASA could do, but it was an improvement over the living/working quarters aboard Skylab, the only American space station to date. Skylab astronauts, including Gerald Carr, Bill Pogue, and Ed Gibson, had consulted on the design of habitable spaces for a new station. Skylab, whose Orbital Workshop compartment had been built inside a repurposed Saturn V rocket stage, was relatively roomy, at approximately 21 feet across and 48 feet long, a habitable volume of about 10,664 cubic feet. With the Multiple Docking Adapter and Airlock Module included, habitable volume grew to
12,417 cubic feet. Overall length with the Apollo Command/Service Module docked was a little over 118 feet. Inside, the workshop was divided into two stories, stacked along the tube’s longer axis. The ceiling of the “upper” deck opened into an airlock module, which connected to a docking adapter, which in turn connected to the vehicle the astronauts had used to travel to the station: the Apollo Command/Service Module (CSM). “We learned some surprising things from the Skylab astronauts,” said Kitmacher, who is now manager of International Space Station Education and Communications. “One was that they were fine with being weightless, with floating around in zero g, but they really wanted a constant up-and-down orientation – and they wanted ‘down’ to be toward the Earth, by the way.” Many NASA engineers, who didn’t see the point of the concept of an up or down in space, were surprised. The Skylab workshop had an up-down orientation, but the docking adapter didn’t, and was completely disorienting to the astronauts. The CSM – whose interior, when docked at the station, was clearly visible – had a vertical orientation completely opposite that of the workshop. Aerospace engineers in general tended to dismiss such concerns as irrelevant. Early space programs, such as Mercury and Gemini, had focused on the significant challenges of safety and survivability. But the long-term occupation of a space environment by a “microsociety” of people living and working together in confined quarters raised important psychosocial issues. NASA project leaders had
BY CRAIG COLLINS
This artistâ€™s conception depicts Space Station Freedom as it would look orbiting the Earth, illustrated by Marshall Space Flight Center artist Tom Buzbee. This smaller configuration of the space station featured a horizontal truss structure that supported U.S., European, and Japanese Laboratory Modules; the U.S. Habitation Module; and three sets of solar arrays. Space Station Freedom was an international, permanently manned, orbiting base to be assembled in orbit by a series of Space Shuttle missions that were to begin in the mid-1990s.
A cutaway illustration of Skylab with the Command/Service Module being docked to the Multiple Docking Adapter. The major components of Skylab were the Orbital Workshop (OWS), Airlock Module (AM), Multiple Docking Adapter (MDA), Apollo Telescope Mount (ATM), and Payload Shroud (PS). Input from former Skylab astronauts about that space station’s configuration informed the design of the ISS.
identified “Man-Systems” as one of the nine primary systems of the new space station, on par with Electrical Power, Guidance, and others. Skylab astronauts had found the division of a module into vertical decks to be claustrophobic and visually confining. This feedback, and the fact that the station would consist of multiple modules in a configuration that required multiple exits from a single module, led to a preference for a longitudinal orientation for the module interiors, similar to that of the Spacelabs. NASA designers worked closely with their counterparts at the European and Japanese space agencies, who would be building their own laboratories. The interior designs of these modules were guided by four specific principles: modularity, maintainability, reconfigurability, and accessibility. Interior hardware
racks and utilities could be replaced easily, standardized so that they could be plugged into a slot in any module, and swung away for easy access to utility lines or the pressure hull. Clustering ports and hatches at the end of a module required a significant portion of its interior volume to be devoted to the comings and goings of crewmembers, severely reducing available room for equipment or workspaces. They looked at the common modules and saw a lot of wasted internal space, taken up by all these hatches. It took a considerable amount of architectural study to determine how to configure the interior space of the modules, and a surprising number of options were analyzed to maximize and optimize the volume devoted to habitation, storage, and utilities. The eventual winner was the “four
stand-off” design: in cross-section, a square corridor running the length of the module, with four rows of standardized racks for storage and workstations. Between the runs of racks, hidden from view, four wedge-shaped tunnels allowed room for utilities – cabling, ventilation, fluid and gas lines, wiring and other electronics – that could be accessed by removing racks. It was an efficient, if austere, configuration, and one ISS crewmember, Canadian astronaut Chris Hadfield, later said the modules of the U.S. Orbital Segment created “an atmosphere similar to that of a hospital corridor.” As programs were trimmed throughout the 1980s and 1990s, efficiency and function began to take precedence over habitability. The Man-Systems group was disbanded after Space Station Freedom became Space Station Alpha in the early 1990s, and the emphasis on the human-machine interface began to wane as the program budget was scaled back. The Habitation Module, one of the two larger U.S. modules planned for the station, was removed from the design, and crew accommodations such as sleeping quarters and exercise spaces were later added to the nodes.
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An artist’s conception of the proposed “Power Tower” space station configuration, shown with the Japanese Experiment Module attached. This model and several others were examined before deciding on the Space Station Freedom structure that later developed into the International Space Station.
astronauts in the station would have been completely cut off from the outside world except for TV views. After lots of back-and-
forth, and insistence by astronauts that direct observation with the eyes was a must for space operations, the Cupola project,
One triumph of Man-Systems design was the Cupola. “A lot of our engineer types, and even a lot of our human/computer interaction people, basically said there is no reason for the astronaut staff to look out a window.” At the time, computers had little capacity for video, meaning the
LEFT: Artist’s conception of the dual-keel design (1986) for Space Station Freedom. BELOW LEFT: Alan Chinchar’s 1991 rendition of Space Station Freedom in orbit. The painting depicts the completed space station. Earth is used as the image’s backdrop, with the Moon and Mars off in the distance. Freedom was to be a permanently crewed orbiting base to be completed
in the mid-1990s. It was to have had a crew of four.
canceled by the United States, was picked up by the Europeans, who built it under a barter agreement – the Cupola in exchange for transports of European crew on the Space Shuttle – and delivered it in 2010. It was the final building block of the U.S. Orbital Segment. “It’s become very important,” Kitmacher said. “It’s the astronauts’ favorite place. Psychologically, I think it gives them a big morale boost.”
STRUCTURAL DESIGN: FROM THE POWER TOWER TO THE ISS In his 2016 book International Space Station: Architecture Beyond Earth, architect David Nixon details the earliest designs cooked up by a Johnson Space Center study group around 1983. Concepts such as the Delta, a cluster of modules connected to the bottom edge of a massive triangular prismatic truss structure, and the “Big T,” which
featured modules along the edge of another rectangular mast structure that hung from a large crossbar, were audacious, ambitious – and completely impracticable, requiring multiple shuttle flights simply to lift and assemble their truss frameworks. A simpler truss structure was in order. The design that began to take shape after Reagan announced U.S. commitment to the space station was known as the Power Tower, a 400-foot truss oriented vertically above the Earth, with modules clustered at the bottom, solar arrays branching out from the middle, and astronomy payloads at the top. Critics of the Power Tower pointed out that activity in the modules would send vibrations along the truss that could be amplified by its considerable length, disturbing sensitive microgravity experiments. In 1985, a new design, the Dual Keel, moved the modules toward the station’s center of gravity. The Dual Keel was a rectangular truss, 310 feet by 150 feet, assembled in orbit from cubical 16- by 16-foot sections. Astronomy payloads were located on the rectangle’s upper edge, while Earth-sensing instruments occupied the lower. The modules were clustered at the center, on a long transverse truss that bisected the rectangle and bore solar arrays at either end. The ambitions of the Dual Keel were scaled back in the wake of the 1986 Space Shuttle Challenger disaster. NASA, in an effort to reduce demands on the Space Shuttle Program, erased the rectangular truss. The resulting single-keel design, a long transverse truss containing all the station’s elements, left the door open for adding more structures later. The single keel station, also known as the “Revised Baseline Configuration,” is what appears in renderings of what Reagan dubbed Space Station Freedom in 1988. Space Station Freedom looks remarkably like today’s International Space Station, but the Revised Baseline needed further revision as the project, overweight and over budget, was passed on to the Clinton administration. The
DIGITAL ACUITY SYSTEMS
LEFT: An STS-96 crewmember aboard Discovery recorded this image of the International Space Station (ISS) with a 70 mm camera during a fly-around following separation of the two spacecraft. At top is the Unity Node, mated to the Russian Zarya module. A portion of the work performed on the May 30 spacewalk by astronauts Tamara E. Jernigan and Daniel T. Barry is evident at various points on the ISS, including the installation of the Russian-built crane (called Strela) and the U.S.-built crane. ABOVE: Arriving aboard Space Shuttle Discovery, the STS-92 crew installed the Z1 Truss. Inside the Z1 are four Control Moment Gyroscopes (CMGs) that provide the International Space Station’s attitude control. The CMGs were later activated on ISS Assembly Mission 5A. A third Pressurized Mating Adapter was installed on the Unity Node, providing an additional shuttle docking port. A Ku-band antenna provides television capability.
redesign was itself later tweaked, after Russia joined the project in 1993, to include Russian modules and a Soyuz escape vehicle. Two truss segments, P2 and S2, designated for their locations on the station’s port (left) and starboard (right) sides, had been planned as locations for rocket thrusters to reboost the station’s orbital altitude, but because the new Russian components provided that capability, the P2 and S2 trusses were removed from the design. The design on the drawing board was now named the International Space Station.
PUTTING IT ALL TOGETHER The space station assembled in space from 1998 to 2011 is the largest human-made object ever to orbit the Earth, as long as a football field and weighing more than 900,000
pounds. Its solar arrays, with a surface area of more than 32,000 square feet, generate up to 80 kilowatts of electrical power. The station’s orbital altitude can range from about 200 to 250 nautical miles above Earth. Assembling modules and components manufactured by multiple countries, often in different parts of the world, and launching them to match up perfectly while touching each other for the first time hundreds of miles above Earth presented ISS partner space agencies with an unprecedented logistical challenge. According to Kitmacher, the Russians had perfected this process in their years of building space stations. “Basically they have full mock-ups of their space station modules on the ground,” he said, “and before anything goes up, they bring everything into their modules, plug them in, and make sure everything works together.”
The pressurized modules of the U.S. segment relied on the use of Common Berthing Mechanisms (CBMs), roughly analogous to the Russian docking ports, developed by Boeing at the Marshall Space Flight Center. At locations where U.S. segment modules linked up with the Russian Segment, or with Russian vehicles, Pressurized Mating Adapters (PMAs) were attached to the Common Berthing Mechanisms to enable connection. Another key difference between the assembly of the Russian and U.S. Segments was the ability of Russian modules, based on the design of self-sufficient Mir and earlier Salyut orbital station modules, to navigate, maneuver, and dock automatically. Modules of the U.S. segment were “berthed” – guided into place with the use of the Space Shuttle’s robotic arm, the Canadarm2, and the Mobile Servicing System, once it had been attached to the station.
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This picture of the completed International Space Station was photographed from the Space Shuttle Atlantis as the orbiting complex and the shuttle performed their relative separation in the early hours of July 19, 2011.
The Russian Zarya and Zvezda modules were selected to be the first functional modules sent into orbit because of their self-sufficiency: Each could maneuver and power itself using self-deployed solar arrays, and they would be relied upon to keep the rest of the ISS in orbit. In December 1998, three weeks after the Zarya was sent into orbit to become the first ISS module in space, the first two PMAs were launched with the American Unity Node 1 module, which would link the Russian and U.S. segments. Astronauts aboard the Space Shuttle Endeavour used the onboard robotic arm to grab onto Zarya and pull it close to the Unity’s location in the payload bay. After the two modules were mated, two astronauts performed spacewalks to connect electrical cabling and attach hardware to the exteriors. The ISS was assembled in more than 40 missions between 1998 and 2011, and nearly all these missions went smoothly. The one glaring exception was the troublesome retraction and redeployment of the P6 truss segment’s solar array wings (SAWs). The truss piece, planned for the port-side end of the station, was actually the first of the segments to be sent up, in November 2000, to provide power to the station as it took shape. P6 was mounted temporarily at the center of the station, atop Unity and attached to the Z1 truss piece (a small structural segment, berthed for this very purpose, to Unity’s zenith, or upper, port). The P6 SAWs later had to be retracted to make room for the deployment of solar arrays on the P4 and S4 truss segments, but the grounding of the Space Shuttle fleet, after the 2003 loss of the orbiter Columbia and its crew, had caused the arrays to be deployed for much longer than intended, a total of about six years. One of the accordion-like wings wouldn’t fold properly, a problem that required a total of eight spacewalks to overcome. In December 2006, astronaut Robert Curbeam, one of the crew aboard the shuttle Atlantis, unintentionally set a record for the most spacewalks in a single shuttle mission – four. A year later, on the assembly mission during which the P6 was finally removed from the Z1 truss and moved to its final home at the station’s port side end, one of its SAWs caused trouble again, developing a tear after unfolding to about 80 percent of its length. Two astronauts spent more
than seven hours in a spacewalk to repair the array and unfold it to its full length. The penultimate module delivery by the Space Shuttle to the ISS was achieved in May 2011, when Endeavour delivered the Alpha Magnetic Spectrometer (AMS-02) and ExPRESS Logistics Carrier to the station. While research had been conducted on the ISS since the first
modules had been sent into space, the addition of AMS-02, a particle physics experiment module, marked the beginning of what’s known as the “utilization” phase – the era in which a fully mature, intact space station is operating at the height of its powers, enabling research that both improves life on Earth and informs the future of long-term space exploration.
THE INTERNATIONAL SPACE STATION’S
MAJOR ASSEMBLY MISSIONS 1998 • NOVEMBER 20: The Zarya Control Module, launched aboard a Proton rocket, becomes the first ISS building block in space. • DECEMBER 4: The Unity (Node 1) module, with two Pressurized Mating Adapters (PMAs), arrives aboard the Space Shuttle Endeavour and is attached to Zarya.
2000 • JULY 12: The Zvezda Service Module, launched aboard a Proton rocket, docks with Zarya’s aft port. • OCTOBER 11: The Z1 truss, a transitional building block, and a third Pressurized Mating Adapter, for spacecraft berthing, are carried by the Space Shuttle Discovery and berthed to the Unity module. • OCTOBER 30: The first ISS crew, Expedition 1, launches aboard a Soyuz spacecraft and begins work in the Zarya module. • NOVEMBER 30: The Space Shuttle Endeavour delivers the P6 truss piece, with the station’s first set of solar arrays, to orbit, and astronauts temporarily mount it atop the Z1 truss at the station’s center.
2001 • FEBRUARY 7: The Space Shuttle Atlantis delivers the U.S. Destiny Laboratory Module, which is berthed to Unity’s forward port. • MARCH 8: The Space Shuttle Discovery carries the Leonardo Multipurpose Logistics Module (MPLM), a reusable space cargo container, into orbit – the first use of the MPLM to bring supplies to the station. • APRIL 19: Canadarm2, the robot arm used for berthing, maintenance, and assembly, is launched aboard Endeavour and is temporarily attached to the Destiny Laboratory’s underside. • JULY 12: The Quest Joint Airlock is brought to the station by the shuttle Atlantis and, with the help of Canadarm2, is swung into place and berthed to Unity’s starboard port. • SEPTEMBER 14: The Pirs docking compartment is launched aboard a Russian Progress cargo vehicle and is attached to the nadir (bottom) port of the Zvezda module.
2002 • APRIL 8: The first piece of the transverse truss structure, the central S0 segment, is launched aboard Atlantis and is attached by astronauts directly, with four rigid struts, to the Destiny Laboratory Module. The S0 truss also contains the first element of the Mobile Transporter – the railcar Canadarm2 will use to traverse the truss structure. • JUNE 5: Endeavour delivers the Mobile Base element—the platform on which Canadarm 2 will sit – and astronauts attach the Mobile Transporter. • OCTOBER 7: Atlantis launches to orbit with the first starboard truss segment, S1. • NOVEMBER 23: The first port truss segment, P1, is launched aboard Endeavour. The P6 solar arrays are deployed and activated.
2006 • SEPTEMBER 9: Atlantis brings the second and third port truss segments, P3/P4, equipped with solar arrays and a thermal radiator. • DECEMBER 9: The P5 truss segment is launched aboard Discovery.
2007 • JUNE 8: The second and third starboard truss segments, S3/S4, equipped with solar arrays, are launched aboard Atlantis. • AUGUST 8: Endeavour delivers the S5 truss segment. • OCTOBER 23: Harmony (Node 2), which would connect Destiny with the European and Japanese laboratory modules, is launched aboard Discovery and is eventually berthed to Destiny’s forward port. The P6 truss is moved to its final home at the port end of the station. The “U.S. Core Complete” assembly milestone is achieved.
2008 • FEBRUARY 7: Atlantis brings the European Columbus Laboratory Module, which is berthed to Harmony’s starboard port. • MARCH 11: The first pressurized component of the Japanese Kibo laboratory, the Experiment Logistics Module, is launched aboard Endeavour and parked temporarily at Harmony’s zenith port. • MAY 31: Discovery brings the main Japanese laboratory module and its robotic arm. The Kibo Laboratory Module is berthed to Harmony’s port side, and then Canadarm2 swings the Experiment Logistics Module into place atop the main laboratory.
2009 • MARCH 15: S6, the final starboard truss segment, and the final ISS solar array wings are launched aboard Discovery. • JULY 15: The Experiment Module Exposed Facility and Exposed Section – the “terraces” for Japanese experiments exposed to space – are launched aboard Endeavour. • NOVEMBER 12: Poisk, the Russian Mini-Research Module, is launched aboard a Progress vehicle from a Soyuz rocket. Poisk is docked to the zenith port of Zvezda.
2010 • FEBRUARY 8: Endeavour delivers Tranquility (Node 3), which is berthed to the Unity node’s port side, and the multi-paned Cupola window, which is attached to Tranquility’s nadir port overlooking the Earth. • MAY 14: Atlantis launches with the Rassvet Mini-Research Module, which is berthed by Canadarm2 to the nadir port of Zarya’s forward node.
2011 • FEBRUARY 24: Discovery launches with the Permanent Multipurpose Module, Leonardo, which is berthed to Unity’s nadir port. The “ISS Assembly Complete” milestone is achieved.
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European space agency image
International space station Elements
INTERNATIONAL SPACE STATION FACTS • 230 individuals from 18 countries have visited the International Space Station • The space station has been continuously occupied since November 2000 • An international crew of six people live and work while traveling at a speed of 5 miles per second, orbiting Earth about every 90 minutes. • In 24 hours, the space station makes 16 orbits of Earth, traveling through 16 sunrises and sunsets • The living and working space in the station is larger than a six-bedroom house (and has six sleeping quarters, two bathrooms, a gym, and a 360-degree-view bay window). • To mitigate the loss of muscle and bone mass in the human body in microgravity, the astronauts work out at least two hours a day. • Astronauts and cosmonauts have conducted more than 205 spacewalks for space station construction, maintenance, and repair since December 1998 • The large modules and other pieces of the station were delivered on 42 assembly flights – 37 on the U.S. Space Shuttles and five on Russian Proton/Soyuz rockets. • The space station is 357 feet end-to-end, one yard shy of the full length of an American football field including the end zones. • Eight miles of wire connect the electrical power system aboard the space station. • The 55-foot robotic Canadarm2 has seven different joints and two end-effectors, or hands, and is used to move entire modules, deploy science experiments, and even transport spacewalking astronauts. • Six spacecraft can be connected to the space station at once. • A spacecraft can arrive at the space station as soon as six hours after launching from Earth. • The station’s orbital path takes it over 90 percent of the Earth’s population, with astronauts taking millions of images of the planet below. Check them out at https://eol.jsc.nasa.gov • More than 20 different research payloads can be hosted outside the station at once, including Earth-sensing equipment, materials science payloads, particle physics experiments, and more. • The space station travels a distance equivalent to a trip to the Moon and back in about a day. • The Water Recovery System reduces crew dependence on water delivered by a cargo spacecraft by 65 percent – from about 1 gallon a day to a third of a gallon. • On-orbit software monitors approximately 350,000 sensors, ensuring station and crew health and safety. • More than 50 computers control the systems on the space station. • More than 3 million lines of software code on the ground support more than 1.5 million lines of flight software code. • In the International Space Station’s U.S. segment alone, more than 1.5 million lines of flight software code run on 44 computers communicating via 100 data networks transferring 400,000 signals (e.g. pressure or temperature measurements, valve positions, etc.).
INTERNATIONAL SPACE STATION SIZE AND MASS • • • • •
Pressurized Module Length: 240 feet (73 meters) Truss Length: 357.5 feet (109 meters) Solar Array Length: 239.4 feet (73 meters) Mass: 925,335 pounds (419,725 kilograms) Habitable Volume: 13,696 cubic feet (388 cubic meters), not including visiting vehicles • Pressurized Volume: 32,333 cubic feet (916 cubic meters) • Power Generation: 8 solar arrays provide 75 to 90 kilowatts of power Compiled from https://www.nasa.gov/feature/facts-and-figures
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Backdropped by Earthâ€™s horizon and the blackness of space, the International Space Station is featured in this image photographed by an STS134 crewmember on the Space Shuttle Endeavour after the station and shuttle began their post-undocking relative separation. Undocking of the two spacecraft occurred at 11:55 p.m. (EDT) on May 29, 2011.
LOOKING FORWARD The Future of the International Space Station and Long-term Spaceflight BY CRAIG COLLINS
t took 12 years to build in space, and people have lived and worked aboard it continuously since Oct. 31, 2000 – 225 visitors, from 18 different countries, so far. Its crewmembers have logged more than 1,000 hours of extravehicular activity on more than 200 spacewalks. More than 3,000 scientific investigators, representing more than 100 countries, have participated in more than 2,400 studies and published more than 1,400 results. It’s as big as a football field, weighs nearly a million pounds, and is the most expensive ($100 billion) object ever built. The numbers are mind-boggling enough that citing them almost muddies the historic significance of the International Space Station (ISS). It’s hard to boil down everything that’s happened in low-Earth orbit (LEO) over the last 20 years, though many thoughtful scientists and historians have made the effort. The Center for Knowledge Diffusion, a U.S. nonprofit that promotes educational access, has illustrated, with its ISS Map of Science, the interdisciplinary flow of knowledge spurred by research aboard the station. The map shows connections among fields as diverse as the humanities and social sciences; medical and biological sciences; and engineering, math, chemistry, and physics – a scope unequaled by any research platform, anywhere. The ISS has changed the world’s ideas about what’s possible in space. In the nearly 18 years during which humans have continuously inhabited LEO, the program has demonstrated the ability for people in spacesuits to assemble large structures in space. In recent years it has revolutionized robotic assembly in space, with external payloads installed and removed via ground-controlled robotics. It continues to foster the creation of a commercial marketplace for space-based services, from research logistics to microsatellite deployment. The scientific and technical accomplishments achieved by the ISS program have already begun to yield benefits for humanity, in forms ranging from new medical procedures to remote sensing tools. The ISS program’s international partners – the United States, Russia, Canada, Japan, and the
CyMISS high resolution mosaic of Harvey from the ISS on August 25, 2017 six hours before it hit the Texas coast. Image credit:
A CASIS project, CyMISS – Tropical Cyclone Intensity Measurements from the ISS What if we saved millions worldwide from suffering from nature's most catastrophic natural phenomenon? TWAi (Trans World Analytics, Inc.), a spinoff of Visidyne, intends to bring a new, global capability to society’s response to nature’s most disastrous natural phenomenon, hurricanes (aka tropical cyclones and typhoons). These storms kill 10,000 people and cause property damage of $700 billion, each year worldwide. Their enormous power comes from the warm surface water of the oceans, modeled as Carnot engines in seminal papers by MIT Professor Kerry Emanuel. They are going to get stronger and more frequent. Our new remote sensing technique can provide more accurate forecasts which will raise desperately needed confidence in predictions and focus preparation, saving thousands of lives. In addition, we bring real-time, communication in direct support of rescue missions, saving even more lives and relieving suffering. We cannot stop hurricanes but can significantly reduce their huge impact on society. The CASIS-funded CyMISS project, led by MIT Emeritus Professor Paul Joss, has acquired image sequences of intense tropical cyclones to support Visidyne’s development of this new remote sensing approach. This will be an improvement over current methods based on the empirical Dvorak technique and will have the biggest impact on other countries which do not have the resources devoted to these storms that the US has.
Since 2014, the CyMISS team, working with NASA and the crews of the ISS, have secured dozens of image sequences for use in the development of stereo algorithms for a future, high-precision, 3D imaging system and the creation of spectacular stereo views with public outreach and STEM educational value. A stereo 3D view (left eye red) of the eye of Irma on September 5, 2017, before landfall on Florida; created by Drew LePage using images acquired for CyMISS by the ISS crew. In line with the CASIS mission to transition CyMISS data and modeling to global use, Visidyne’s spinoff, TWAi is developing a unique near-space platform called Solar Falcon™, a lighterthan-air, solar-powered airship that can loiter at 20 kilometers altitude for months and follow hurricanes, flying above the storms. It will be equipped to make measurements of many of the parameters controlling the growth and tracks of hurricanes, and provide large-area, wide-band communication to the ground – a single platform could have covered all of Puerto Rico immediately and months after disastrous Hurricane Maria hit. Contact: AT Stair, President: Tel: (781) 273-2820, Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
Above: Artist’s conception of the Orion capsule with the European Space Agency’s service module. Future NASA space exploration will continue to be an international affair, building on the model and relationships forged by the ISS. Right: Joel Montalbano, deputy manager, International Space Station
nasa photo by ken shiflett
Program at NASA’s Johnson Space Center in Houston.
12 member nations of the European Space Agency (ESA) – have achieved what may be the station’s most significant legacy: a tradition of working together on peaceful activity in space. The intergovernmental agreements developed to make the ISS happen are remarkable for their simplicity and agility, allowing relationships to grow and change over time, and they’ve also laid the groundwork for new collaborations in space, such as the European Service Module that will provide navigation, propulsion, electricity, water, oxygen, nitrogen, and temperature control for Orion, NASA’s spacecraft for exploring the solar system. According to Joel Montalbano, NASA’s deputy International Space Station program manager, this decades-long tradition of cooperation in space is sturdier than most treaties negotiated on Earth, where relationships are often roiled by the winds of geopolitics. The ISS operates, literally and figuratively, above such concerns. “For example,” said Montalbano, “you see today
the U.S.-Russian relationship, at the political level, is not really the greatest. But in operating with our Russian colleagues on the space station, nothing has changed … the physics is the same, whether you’re in the U.S. or Russia, and there is a job to do where people’s lives are at stake, and we work together with our Russian colleagues.”
THE TRANSITION AHEAD As NASA and its international partners celebrate the ISS’ remarkable 20-year record of innovation and collaboration, they also face a decision point: There is much the ISS can still accomplish in space – and much research yet to be done aboard the station to lay the groundwork for NASA’s and its partners’ crewed explorations of the solar system. At the same time, NASA now spends a little over $3 billion annually on the ISS program, with a significant amount of the cost for commercial cargo and crew.
In a 2014 report titled “Pathways to Exploration: Rationales and Approaches for a U.S. Program of Human Space Exploration,” the National Research Council concluded that
International Space Station I 20th Anniversary
In this illustration, a SpaceX Crew Dragon spacecraft approaches the International Space Station for docking. NASA is partnering with Boeing and SpaceX to build a new generation of human-rated spacecraft capable of taking astronauts to the station and expanding research opportunities in orbit.
commercial operations. Congress responded by asking the agency to consider other options, including the extension of ISS operations until 2028 or beyond. Whether it is a customer or benefactor of the ISS in 2025, NASA will have the same primary objectives for work on the space station, outlined in its Transition Report: to prepare for deep space missions, to maintain global leadership in human spaceflight, to enable a commercial market in low-Earth orbit, and to continue to foster research and development efforts that will benefit life on Earth.
For now, the agency is working to understand what “commercialization” of the ISS might mean. What, said Montalbano, does all this mean? In an ongoing effort to foster commercial activity in space, NASA has selected 12 companies to study the future of commercial human spaceflight in low-Earth orbit, including long-range opportunities for the International Space Station. The studies will assess the potential growth of a lowEarth orbit economy and how to best stimulate private demand for commercial human spaceflight. The portfolio of selected studies
within a few years, continuing to fund the ISS at this rate, without an overall increase in the human spaceflight budget, will negatively affect NASA’s schedule of crewed missions to Mars. Both the legislative and executive branches responded to this report by encouraging development of a commercial marketplace aboard the station, with the goal of shifting most, if not all, of the ISS operating costs onto private companies. As of summer 2018, the future of the ISS was an unsettled question between the White House and Congress. The White House’s 2019 budget request, released in February 2018, proposed an end to direct federal funding of the station beginning in 2025. A month later, NASA submitted, as required by Congress, its ISS Transition Report, laying out its plan to transition the station to
Above: The NanoRacks CubeSat Deployer launches two CubeSat miniature satellites into space. Left: The Bigelow Expandable Activity Module (BEAM) berthed to the ISS on the aft port of the Tranquility Node. The BEAM was developed to test the feasibility of inflatable modules in orbit. It was berthed to the station in April 2016,
and is expected to stay in place until 2020.
will include specific industry concepts detailing business plans and viability for habitable platforms, whether using the space station or separate free-flying structures. The studies also will provide NASA with recommendations on the role of government and evolution of the space station in the process of transitioning U.S. human spaceflight activities in low-Earth orbit to non-governmental enterprises. “When the International Space Station was established, we could not have anticipated all of the benefits it would provide,” said Sam Scimemi, director of the International Space Station division at NASA Headquarters. “We’re excited to receive this input from the commercial market and aerospace experts to help shape a future thriving space economy in which companies contract with each other to conduct research and activities in low-Earth orbit.”
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THE EMERGING MARKETPLACE IN SPACE Of course, NASA has already fostered commercial activity in space; it spurred the first privately operated cargo deliveries to the ISS, beginning in 2012, and in August 2018, announced selection of the first group of astronauts to fly privately operated crew vehicles – the SpaceX Crew Dragon and Boeing Starliner – to the ISS, beginning in 2019. Several companies are already operating aboard the station: NanoRacks, the first company to own and market its own hardware and services aboard the ISS, has flown more than 700 payloads, including the deployment of more than 200 microsatellites, for customers from 30 countries. Since April 2016, Bigelow Aerospace has maintained one of the modules berthed to the station, the Bigelow Expandable Activity Module (BEAM), an inflatable pressurized module contributing to the space station habitable volume. BEAM is 10 feet in diameter by 13 feet long. Most of the U.S. segment modules are 15 feet in diameter and between 18 feet (Node 1 Unity or the U.S./ Joint Airlock Quest) and 37 feet (JEM Pressurized Module) long. Russian modules are a minimum of 9 feet in diameter and 15 feet long (Pirs and Poisk), up to 12 feet in diameter by 43 feet long (Service Module Zvezda), A few modules like the Pressurized Mating Adapters (PMAs) and Cupola are a little smaller than BEAM. BEAM was also never really configured for “habitation.” It lacks some provisions like air circulation (ductwork can be brought in temporarily). It was intended as a technical test of
The Gateway is planned to orbit the Moon and serve as a communications hub, science laboratory, short-term habitation module, holding area for rovers and other robots, and a jumping-off point for missions farther into space. Gateway will follow the successful ISS model, with the U.S. and international partners joining to build different segments to be assembled in orbit.
an inflatable and can now be used for storage, with astronauts entering only temporarily. Bigelow is one of a handful of companies, including Axiom Space, that have floated the idea of sending up their own modules to be berthed to the ISS for a short acclimation period before unberthing and operating in LEO for profit. A privatized ISS, Montalbano said, may be one in which companies “practice on us to get used to operating in low-Earth orbit, and then go away – meaning either that they berth or dock and then leave, or they come up with a Module 2.0 that they launch and fly autonomously.” As successful as companies such as NanoRacks, SpaceX, and Axiom are, none is likely to make such a bold move until NASA’s plans for the ISS are known. “It’s costly for them to do it on their own,” said Montalbano. In the near future, NASA may become more of a facilitator than benefactor, helping guide companies through their first experiences in orbit, “and then possibly they can go off on their own for a second or third. That, to me, is another huge benefit of the space station.” Two events, each currently scheduled for 2019, have the potential to accelerate the pace of both commercialization and research being conducted aboard the ISS: the first privately operated crew transports, by Boeing
and SpaceX – each operating spacecraft that can carry four people, compared to the Soyuz spacecraft’s capacity for three – and the addition of the Russian Nauka (Multipurpose Laboratory Module). According to Montalbano, this means the crew aboard the station will grow from six to seven people, with an accompanying increase in the number of hours spent on operations and experiments. “And the hope is that maybe the commercial industry allows other traffic to come and visit the space station,” he said. “Maybe once we get Boeing and SpaceX flying crews, that opens up opportunities in the next year-anda-half to two years for other companies to fly people to the station.” As an example, Montalbano said, a company may want to send its own investigator to the station to perform a specific biomedical or materials experiment – or a company might just want to fly people up for a week to film some commercials. “We’re still trying to figure out all the opportunities we can generate with the commercial approach we’re trying to transition to,” said Montalbano.
THE LONG HAUL: A GATEWAY TO DEEP SPACE EXPLORATION Decades ago, as NASA considered the best uses for its new space technologies, the Space
Small steps in space science, giant leaps for human health on Earth In the zero gravity of prolonged space flights, astronauts suffer loss of muscle and bone mass that mimics osteoporosis. To address this problem, a University of Saskatchewan research team is building a portable MRI scanning device to monitor astronauts’ muscle and bone health on space missions. With a Canadian Space Agency grant, researcher Gordon Sarty is designing and engineering an ankle-sized MRI device for the International Space Station (ISS) by the early 2020s. The device will weigh only 50 kilograms and will be able to provide images of muscle and bone using novel radio transmitter technology. Understanding bone loss and recovery processes will have applications for osteoporosis treatment back on Earth. The new technology also holds great promise for improving the health of people in rural or remote areas who have little access to medical imaging, as well as for possible use in ambulances, dental clinics, and operating and emergency rooms. “A portable and less expensive MRI will have a large impact in the world,” said Sarty’s former PhD student Somaie Salajeghe who designed and wrote new software for the prototype, originally conceived of as a small wrist-sized MRI. “In some parts of the world, it’s too expensive to have MRIs.” The new MRI for the ISS will also demonstrate technologies needed to build an MRI for a moon base in the 2030s. University of Saskatchewan graduate Somaie Salajeghe
From the University of Saskatchewan to the great beyond… As the world celebrates the 20th anniversary of the International Space Station (ISS), we celebrate the collaborative work of all the scientists, governments and others who made the ISS possible. Many of our alumni and researchers have contributed to and continue to pursue related projects, including testing of the Canadarm, the CubeSat satellite, and our space and atmospheric institute work. We are proud to help mark this milestone, and look forward to what we will accomplish together in the next 20 years.
NASA astronaut Dan Burbank, Expedition 30 flight commander, exercises using the advanced Resistive Exercise Device (aRED) in the Tranquility Node of the International Space Station. Vital research on human health risks (such as bone loss) during long-term spaceflight, as well as in filling existing technology gaps, continues
aboard the ISS.
Task Group formed by President Richard M. Nixon in 1969 called for biomedical and psychosocial research aboard a space station that would enable long-term human space exploration, and eventually a Mars landing. Today, as the agency’s plans and capabilities for a crewed expedition to Mars become more refined, the ISS remains an important testbed for testing both the technological and human aspects of long-term spaceflight. A Mars expedition would, of necessity, be an “Earth-independent” mission, different from the ISS mission, which relies on resupply for basic resources such as food, water, fuel, and even breathable air. Just seven years into its utilization phase, the ISS must continue to serve as a testbed for research into how people can stay healthy and serve capably on a mission that will take them no less than 78 million miles, round-trip, for a duration of two years or more. In recent years, ISS researchers have discovered several challenges associated with longterm human habitation of space, including bone loss and, more recently, vision impairment. Resistance exercise, diet, and vitamin D supplements have proved a relatively effective counter to bone loss aboard the station, for long expeditions, but Montalbano said the size of a deep-space exploration vehicle and the duration of a Mars mission will make it more difficult. “Today, we have a treadmill onboard,” he said. “We have a bicycle, and we have a resistive exercise machine. And we’re going to have to figure out a plan because of the real estate requirements. As we go to the Moon, and definitely to Mars, we’re going to have to shrink those three pieces of hardware to one – and it’s not even going to be the size of one. It’s going to have to be smaller than the smallest one we have on orbit now. We’ll need the space station to test and wring out the new device.” Life support technologies have improved remarkably over the past 20 years, but several haven’t yet reached Earth-independence levels. ISS oxygen generators work well, but, like the exercise equipment, will need to be downsized. The ability of ISS systems to scrub carbon dioxide from the interior air and to recover water will need to be
improved, said Montalbano, before they’re ready for a Mars mission. “We’re not into a solid 90 percent yet on water recovery on the space station, and if you’re going to leave the Earth system, you’re going to want to be better than 90 percent on that.” In the summer of 2018, a report from NASA’s inspector general pointed to the possibility that the research necessary for enabling long-term spaceflight is unlikely to be completed by 2024: As of February 2018, research for at least 6 of 20 human health risks that require the ISS for testing and 4 of 40 technology gaps will not be completed by the end of FY 2024 when funding for the station’s operation is scheduled to end. In addition, research into 2 human health risks and 17 technology gaps is not scheduled to be completed until sometime during 2024, which increases the risk that even minor schedule slippage could push completion past the end of that fiscal year. This is due in part to difficulties with characterizing and mitigating the health risks and, for technology demonstrations, obtaining the required funding and on-orbit research time. While the future of the ISS beyond 2024 isn’t clear, the unfinished business of deep-space research has clarified a few things for NASA and its partners. First, regardless of the degree to which operations aboard the U.S. Orbital Segment become commercialized in the coming years, it will be important that this research remains. Studies must be conducted in parallel to preparations for international collaboration on the Gateway, an outpost envisioned as a staging point for explorations of the Moon and eventually Mars. “We want to continue flying space station until we have our sustained presence in cislunar orbit,” said Montalbano, though he says the future of the ISS may not necessarily involve a continuous human presence. “We have too many examples in our past where you end one program, and then you’re
idle for a while before the next program, and that’s really not a good path for human spaceflight.” A hiatus will mean losing not only the sharpness of decision-making both on orbit and on the ground, but also the collective strength cultivated over the last 20 years aboard the ISS. “To me, that unites a world community,” Montalbano said, “and if you’re not flying, you lose that.” In March 2017, the House Subcommittee on Space hosted a hearing on possibilities for the ISS after 2024. In his testimony, William Gerstenmaier, NASA’s associate administrator for Human Exploration and Operations, said it would be critical to smoothly transition human spaceflight capabilities from low-Earth orbit aboard the ISS, to regular missions of the Orion spacecraft and its Space Launch System into cislunar space. “I think the station plays a pretty critical role,” he said. “We’re going to need some facility in space as we break the tie of the planet and move human presence farther into the solar system.” Meanwhile, NASA’s ISS program is focused on how to do the work necessary for completing planned space-related research while accelerating the involvement of private-sector partners. Given the reaction of many legislators to the White House’s 2019 budget proposal, complete defunding of the station by 2025 doesn’t seem a sure thing. Many public and private ISS partners think it may take longer than that to create a viable commercial marketplace in low-Earth orbit, which is one of the issues being examined in the studies recently commissioned by NASA. “One of the responses could be that for the space station to be a viable investment, companies will want to have it in place late into the 2020s,” said Montalbano, “which I think we can do. Right now the work being done easily gets us to 2028. I think we can get to 2030. We’re taking steps today to make sure we remain a platform that’s operational. The goal is to be there for as long as there is a need.”
International Space Station I 20th Anniversary
International Collaboration in Low-Earth Orbit and Beyond BY CRAIG COLLINS
This Agreement is a long term international co-operative framework on the basis of genuine partnership, for the detailed design, development, operation, and utilization of a permanently inhabited civil Space Station for peaceful purposes, in accordance with international law. – Article I, The Intergovernmental Agreement (IGA) on Space Station Cooperation
nternational cooperation is the new norm in space. While International Space Station crewmembers have all been citizens of the 14 governments who signed the Intergovernmental Agreement (IGA) on Space Station Cooperation in January 1998 – the United States, Russia, Japan, Canada, and ten member states of the European Space Agency (Belgium, Denmark, France, Germany, Italy, The Netherlands, Norway, Spain, Sweden, and Switzerland) – the station, as of the summer of 2018, has hosted 227 visitors from 18 different countries. Experiments from more than 100 countries have been carried out on the ISS. According to NASA, more than 60 international space agencies increasingly work together in a broad range of space activities. The IGA, and the memoranda of understanding that followed, established the cooperative framework for the construction and utilization of the International Space Station (ISS). It was a historic document, establishing one of the most ambitious international collaborations ever attempted, but in many ways it can be seen not as the beginning of a new era in space exploration, but rather as a culmination of long-established working partnerships, some dating nearly to the beginning of the world’s space programs. The partner agencies of the ISS, and their essential contributions to long-term space exploration, include:
Canadian upper atmospheric and space research dates to the 1950s, and its collaborations with both the American and European space programs date to the 1960s. The first satellite built by a country other than the United States or Soviet Union was Canada’s Alouette 1, launched by NASA from Vandenberg Air Force Base, California, in 1962. The success of Alouette 1 and ensuing U.S./Canadian satellite launches led NASA, in 1969, to invite Canada’s participation in the Space Shuttle Program. The first Canadian-built Shuttle Remote Manipulation System, or Canadarm, the robotic arm used to deploy and retrieve shuttle payloads, was delivered in 1981. The first Canadian in space, astronaut Marc Garneau, served as a payload specialist aboard Challenger in October 1984. In 1999, astronaut Julie Payette became the first Canadian to board the ISS; the first Canadian to command the station, Chris Hadfield, took command of Expedition 35 in December 2012. Canada’s critical contribution to the ISS is the Mobile Servicing System (MSS), a sophisticated robotics system used in the assembly, maintenance, and resupply of the ISS. A successor to Canadarm, the MSS consists of three components: • The Space Station Remote Manipulator System (SSRMS), or Canadarm2, a 58-footlong robotic arm with seven motorized joints, capable of handling payloads up to 256,000 pounds. Canadarm2 was used to berth and assemble ISS modules in space, and is regularly used to move supplies and equipment as well as to capture free-flying spacecraft and dock them to the ISS. Latching end effectors (LEEs, the “hands” at either end of Canadarm2) allow the arm to grip specialized fixtures on the station, spacecraft, and moveable components. • The Mobile Base System (MBS), a base platform for Canadarm2. The platform glides on rails mounted along the main truss of the ISS, allowing Canadarm2 to be used anywhere along the length of the station.
THE CANADIAN SPACE AGENCY
STS-131 and Expedition 23 crewmembers gathered for a group portrait in the Kibo laboratory of the International Space Station while Space Shuttle Discovery remained docked with the station. STS-131 crewmembers pictured (light blue shirts) are NASA astronauts Alan Poindexter, commander; James P. Dutton Jr., pilot; and Clayton Anderson, Rick Mastracchio, Dorothy Metcalf-Lindenburger, Stephanie Wilson, and Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency astronaut Naoko Yamazaki, all mission specialists. Expedition 23 crewmembers pictured are Russian cosmonauts Oleg Kotov, commander, and Mikhail Kornienko and Alexander Skvortsov; Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency astronaut Soichi Noguchi; and NASA astronauts T.J. Creamer and Tracy Caldwell Dyson, all flight engineers.
Israeli Innovation on the International Space Station Technion-NASA
Transient Astrophysics Observatory
Laboratory for Scientific & Industrial Experiment in Microgravity
SpaceLab Middle School Students' Experiments
Herzeliya Science Center
Nanosatellite Built by High School Students
Radiation Protection Vest for Space
• The Special Purpose Dexterous Manipulator (SPDM), or Dextre, a smaller twoarmed robot that can attach to Canadarm 2, the MBS, or to the ISS itself. Capable of using several tools on the end of either arm, Dextre is a multipurpose robot, capable of repairs, maintenance, or moving and installing replaceable units on the station’s exterior. The MSS, along with the rest of Canada’s space program, is administered from Canadian Space Agency Headquarters at the John H. Chapman Space Centre in Longueuil, Quebec.
THE JAPAN AEROSPACE EXPLORATION AGENCY (JAXA) Japan launched its space program in 1969, shortly before the Apollo 11 Moon landing, and by 1985 three of its astronauts had been selected for participation in the Space Shuttle Program. Mamoru Mohri, the first Japanese astronaut in space, was a payload specialist aboard the shuttle Endeavour in 1992. In 2009, Koichi Wakata became the first Japanese ISS crewmember, serving as a flight engineer on Expeditions 18, 19, and 20; he would later become the first Japanese commander of the ISS, when he took charge of Expedition 39 in March 2014. The Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency’s (JAXA’s) highest-profile contribution to the ISS is the station’s largest single module: the Japanese Experiment Module (JEM) or
The Japanese Experiment Module (JEM) section of the International Space Station. At left is the Exposed Facility. Atop the longer cylinder of the Pressurized Module is the Experiment Logistics Module.
Kibo, Japanese for “Hope.” The JEM/Kibo, a complex of modules and parts, was launched over three Space Shuttle flights in 2007 and 2008. It consists of two research facilities: the 37-foot-long Pressurized Module, which provides a shirtsleeve research environment, and the Exposed Facility, a platform with 12 attachment points for experiment payloads, samples, and spare items. A pressurized Experiment Logistics Module sits atop the Pressurized Module and provides storage. Kibo is equipped with its own robotic arm and a scientific airlock, both of which allow astronauts to exchange experiment payloads or hardware from the Pressurized Module. JAXA made its first cargo delivery to the ISS in 2009, when an H-II Transfer Vehicle (HTV) delivered about 7,400 pounds of equipment and supplies. HTVs are automated cargo craft for resupplying Kibo and the ISS and are expendable: After unloading, they’re loaded with items/hardware no longer needed onboard, unberthed, deorbited, and sent back to Earth, where they incinerate on atmospheric reentry. As of September 2018, seven HTVs have been launched aboard Mitsubishi-built H-IIB rockets from Tanegashima Space Center in southern Japan.
It was an HTV that delivered Japan’s first robot astronaut, Kirobo, to the ISS in August 2013 as a technology demonstration experiment. Kirobo, equipped with software enabling facial recognition, voice and speech recognition, language processing, and speech synthesis, was designed to evaluate how well humans and robots can interact in space, with an eye toward a greater robotic role in future space missions. In June 2017, a Dragon spacecraft brought a new Japanese-made experimental device to the Kibo module: the JEM Ball Camera, or Int-Ball. An experimental ball camera, the 2-pound Int-Ball floats freely in ISS’s microgravity environment and is capable of using 12 small electric propellers to maneuver autonomously throughout the station. The IntBall’s cute-robot appearance has made it an item of public fascination, but its ability to transmit images and video in real time is already improving the efficiency of the ISS crew; JAXA has said its astronauts spend 10 percent of their working time photographing their findings, and typically there is a considerable delay between the time an image is captured and sent to Earth. JAXA has administrative headquarters in Tokyo and other field centers throughout the
International Space Station I 20th Anniversary
RIGHT: The European Space Agency’s Automated Transfer Vehicle-4 (ATV-4), “Albert Einstein,” about to dock to the orbital outpost on June 15, 2013, following a 10-day period of free-flight. BELOW RIGHT: In the International Space Station’s Columbus laboratory, NASA astronaut Chris Cassidy, Expedition 36 flight engineer, performs an ultrasound on European Space Agency astronaut Luca Parmitano, flight engineer, for the Spinal Ultrasound investigation.
country, but its primary operational centers are Tanegashima and the Tsukuba Space Center, north of Tokyo, where Kibo was developed and tested, where the Kibo Control Center is located, and where data and images – from the Int-Ball and other sources – are transmitted.
Europe’s history of international collaboration in space dates to 1973, when an ESA predecessor, the European Space Research Organization, signed a memorandum of understanding with NASA to build a science laboratory for use on Space Shuttle flights. The habitable Spacelab modules and their components were flown on 22 Space Shuttle missions in the 1980s and 1990s. The first astronaut from an ESA member nation to fly in space was Ulf Merbold of Germany, who flew on the Spacelab-1 mission aboard the Space Shuttle Columbia in November and December 1983. Merbold was actually the second German in space; Sigmund Jahn, of the former Soviet-bloc East Germany, rode a Soyuz capsule to the Russian Salyut 6 space station in 1978. The first European to board the ISS was Umberto Guidoni, a payload specialist aboard the shuttle Columbia who came aboard the station in 2001. Thomas Reiter became the first ESA astronaut to serve on an ISS crew in 2006, as part of Expeditions 13 and 14; and Frank De Winne, commander of Expedition 21, became the first European to command the ISS in 2009. Europe’s largest contribution to the construction of the ISS is the Columbus Research Laboratory, which supports scientific and technological research in a microgravity environment with experiments in materials science, fluid physics, life science, and technology. The Columbus module is permanently berthed to Harmony (Node 2). Two of the ISS’s connecting modules were built in Italy under a NASA/ESA agreement. Harmony (Node 2) serves as the connecting
point for the Destiny, Kibo, and Columbus laboratories. With six berthing locations, it also provides ports for cargo vehicles, and is a utility hub for the station, providing electrical power, heating and cooling, and data and video exchange support. Permanent crew quarters – rack-sized staterooms for off-duty crewmembers – were added to Harmony to allow astronauts private spaces to sleep, groom, work, or relax. Tranquility (Node 3), added in 2010, is another six-port node, mounted to the port side of Unity (Node 1). Its zenith (upper) port has been modified to become a parking spot for Dextre. Tranquility accommodates ISS air revitalization, oxygen generation, and water recovery systems, and also contains exercise equipment and a toilet for crewmembers. From 2008 to 2015, ESA made cargo deliveries to the ISS with its Automated Trans-
fer Vehicles (ATVs), launched from Ariane 5 rockets at the Guiana Space Centre near Kourou, French Guiana, and controlled from the ATV Control Center in Toulouse, France. The ATV was an autonomous logistical resupply vehicle, capable of navigating and docking with the ISS automatically. Like Japan’s HTV, the European vehicle was designed to be expendable. Cargo was also delivered to the ISS aboard the Space Shuttle, in reusable Italian-made containers known as Multipurpose Logistics Modules (MPLMs). With a design owing much to the earlier Spacelabs, the MPLMs were pressurized modules that allowed for the return of experiment payloads and other cargo to Earth. Just before the Space Shuttle Program ended in 2011, one of the MPLMs, Leonardo, was converted into the Permanent Multipurpose Module (PMM, which now provides about
Nasa Photo by Jim Grossmann
THE EUROPEAN SPACE AGENCY (ESA)
LEFT: NASA astronaut Tracy Caldwell Dyson, Expedition 24 flight engineer, looks through a window in the Cupola of the International Space Station. BELOW: Backdropped by the blackness of space, the Soyuz TMA-14 spacecraft departs from the International Space Station carrying Russian cosmonaut Gennady Padalka, Expedition 19/20 commander and Soyuz commander; NASA astronaut Michael Barratt, flight engineer; and spaceflight participant Guy Laliberté. The Soyuz and Progress spacecraft have been vital
to ISS operations.
77 cubic meters of total storage volume for equipment, experiments, and supplies. One of the station’s most popular features among astronauts, the Cupola, was also manufactured for NASA and ESA in Italy. Named for the raised observation deck on a railroad caboose, the Cupola, mounted on Tranquility’s nadir (lower) berthing port, is the largest window ever used in space. Its seven panes provide an expansive panoramic view of the Earth, and each is equipped with a shutter to protect it from contamination and collisions with micrometeorites or orbital debris. Designed to house robotic workstations, the Cupola can accommodate two crewmembers simultaneously. On the Earth below, key European ground facilities for administering the ISS include: • The European Space Research and Technology Centre (ESTEC), Noordwjik, the Netherlands. The largest ESA establishment, the ESTEC is responsible for the technical preparation and management of ESA space projects, of which ISS is a significant part. • The Columbus Control Centre (Col-CC), at the German Aerospace Center (DLR) in Oberpfaffenhofen, near Munich. ColCC controls and operates the Columbus laboratory and coordinates the operation of European experiments. • The European Astronaut Centre, Cologne, Germany. The EAC is the home base for the European Astronaut Corps. • Several User Support and Operation Centres (USOCs) are distributed throughout Europe, where personnel use and implement European ISS payloads – developing experimental procedures, for example, or exchanging experimental data with ISS scientists.
THE ROSCOSMOS STATE CORPORATION FOR SPACE ACTIVITIES (ROSCOSMOS) Russia entered the ISS project in 1993 as the world’s leading expert in long-term space exploration: The Soviet Union launched the first manned space station in 1971 and built the first multi-module space station, Mir, which operated in low-Earth orbit from 1986 to 2001. The first spacewalk was conducted by cosmonaut Alexey Leonov in 1965, and the record for the longest single human spaceflight – 438 consecutive days – is held by Valery Polyakov, who served aboard Mir from January 1994 to March 1995. Despite their intense Cold War rivalry, Russia and the United States began collaborating peacefully in space in 1975 with the Apollo-Soyuz Test Project, during which the Apollo Command/Service Module docked with
a Soyuz spacecraft in orbit. The Shuttle-Mir program of the 1990s paved the way for collaboration on the ISS; the APAS-95 docking port developed to allow the Space Shuttle to berth with Mir is the same port used on the ISS to join Russian modules with American modules, as well as with other components and vehicles. Russia laid the foundation for the ISS with the 1998 launch of Zarya, the Functional Cargo Block (FGB). The FGB is based on the first Soviet/Russian military space station design – Almaz – in the 1960s, the equivalent of the canceled U.S. DOD Manned Orbiting Laboratory. The design was later used for cargo resupply ships for Salyut 6 and 7, and then for modules on Mir. Zarya provided a self-contained center for power supply, communications, and attitude control; today the FGB is used primarily for storage and propellant storage. The Zvezda Service Module provided early living quarters and life support for ISS crewmembers, electrical power distribution, data processing, flight control, and propulsion. Zvezda, added in 2000, remains the structural and functional center of the Russian Orbital Segment of the ISS, capable of supporting up
A rewarding ISS journey - from payload operations to development The EMCS and AIS payloads have been operated by the Norwegian User Support and Operations Centre (N-USOC) at CIRiS in Trondheim, Norway since their launch in 2006 and 2009. Photo by
NTNU Social Research.
More than a decade ago, the Norway-based Centre for Interdisciplinary Research in Space (CIRiS) took on the responsibility for two exceptional ISS payloads. The EMCS and VIS payloads have been remarkably reliable, demonstrating applicable technology and providing fundamental scientific results. Now, CIRiS continues its ISS contributions as it turns towards payload development. The European Modular Cultivation System (EMCS) was built by Airbus DS as an advanced cultivation system for plants and small invertebrates. Two independent centrifuges have made possible life-science research under fractional gravity. “13 experiments were conducted until the payload was decommissioned in 2018”, explains Research Manager Ann-Iren Kittang Jost at CIRiS. “This has generated vital data on fundamental principles of plant growth under for example Martian and Lunar gravity”, she points out. The results contribute towards the long-term goal of regenerative life-support systems for future missions. The Vessel Identification System (VIS) payload was launched as a technology demonstrator for the concept of placing an AIS receiver in orbit. While land-based antennas quickly lose sight of vessels, an ISSreceiver was believed to increase the detection area considerably. And so it did. Due to its success, the payload originally developed by the Norwegian Forsvarets Forskningsinstitutt (FFI) remained operative in orbit year after year, until it finally was brought down in 2018 - after 9 years in service. A rewarding journey “The opportunity of contributing to ISS research and development through close cooperation with ESA and the Norwegian
Space Agency has made possible a wonderful journey”, says the Norwegian biologist. “We have also really appreciated that new technology not only has been exploration driven, but also demonstrated considerable Earth benefits and synergies.”
“It has been amazing to be part of one of the greatest international projects ever, and to witness the incredible spirit of collaboration for a common goal” Now, the research manager points towards new possibilities as one of several new assignments include development of new experiment containers for the ISS Biolab payload. “Through our experiences, we have strengthened our belief in interdisciplinary and international collaboration”, Kittang Jost points out. “The power of including operational aspects in early phases of hardware design has been a key element in the lessons learned”, she stresses, clearly eager to continue their life-science contributions made possible by the ISS research platform.
The EMCS has for more than a decade contributed to a better understanding of plant growth and development under fractional gravity, and made possible for example decoupling photo- and gravitropism in plants. Photo by NASA.
CIRiS is part of the Norway-based NTNU Social Research. Combining biology and technology, the interdisciplinary R&D-team contributes towards space exploration and sustainable food production on Earth.
Ann-Iren Kittang Jost is the Research Manager of CIRiS. She holds a PhD in biology and has a long history of integration and operation of ISS payloads. email@example.com
LEFT: The Expedition Six crewmembers, wearing Russian Sokol suits, pose for a crew photo in the Functional Cargo Block (FGB), or Zarya, on the International Space Station (ISS). Pictured are astronaut Donald R. Pettit (front), NASA ISS science officer; cosmonaut Nikolai M. Budarin (left back), flight engineer; and astronaut Kenneth D. Bowersox, mission commander. BELOW LEFT: Russian cosmonaut Elena Serova, Expedition 41 flight engineer, floats through the Rassvet Mini-Research Module 1
(MRM1) of the International Space Station.
to six crewmembers, with separate sleeping quarters for two, exercise equipment, a toilet and other hygiene facilities, and a galley with a refrigerator and freezer. Zvezda has three docking ports at its forward end. The pressurized docking compartment, Pirs, attaches to Zvezda’s nadir port. It provides a port for the docking of Soyuz and Progress vehicles and a staging area and hatch for spacewalks from the Russian segment. Pirs is equipped with an antenna for docking navigation and a manipulator boom for moving crew and cargo.
The Poisk, or Mini-Research Module 2 (MRM2), is a near-twin to the Pirs module, attached to the zenith port of Zvezda. It provides spacewalk capability, a docking port for spacecraft, and additional space for scientific experiments, including power supply and data nodes for five external workstations. Three temporary internal workstations are located near the module’s windows. Rassvet, or Mini-Research Module 1 (MRM1), is docked to the nadir port of Zarya. Used primarily for cargo storage and as a docking port for visiting spacecraft, Rassvet,
added to the ISS in 2010, is also equipped with eight internal workstations to enable service as a mini research laboratory. The exterior of Rassvet is outfitted to receive additional ISS components, including the European Robotic Arm (ERA) and Nauka, the Russian Multipurpose Laboratory Module. Both Russian-built spacecraft – the crewed three-person Soyuz capsule and the unpiloted Progress cargo carrier – are launched on Soyuz rockets from Baikonur Cosmodrome in southern Kazakhstan. Baikonur is the chief launch center for both vehicles; the Zarya and Zvezda were launched aboard more powerful Proton rockets from Baikonur. The Soyuz spacecraft, which have been upgraded periodically since their first use in the mid-1960s, have been the ISS’s most reliable workhorses, capable of docking automatically with the station and remaining docked for up to 220 days. The Soyuz has been the only crewed spacecraft to visit the ISS since the end of the U.S. Space Shuttle Program in 2011. In a typical year, the ISS is visited by three to four Progress spacecraft, resupply vehicles used to deliver dry cargo, propellant, water, and gas. Progress can either dock autonomously or be docked remotely by ISS crewmembers. Like the HTV and ATV, Progress is an expendable vehicle that is deorbited after service and incinerated on re-entry. The Russian ISS segment is operated from Roscosmos’s Moscow Mission Control Center (TsUP), the primary facility for all Russian human spaceflight activities. The Gagarin Research and Test Cosmonaut Training Center (GCTC), at Star City near Moscow, provides full-size simulators and training centers for all Russian cosmonauts, including g-force centrifuges, a planetarium for navigation training, and a water pool for simulated spacewalks.
THE NATIONAL AERONAUTICS AND SPACE ADMINISTRATION (NASA) The ISS is the descendant of a plan first hatched by NASA engineers in the wake of the Apollo program: a permanently crewed
ENGINEERING AND INNOVATIVE TECHNOLOGY DEVELOPMENT As one of the nation's leading developers in cold stowage hardware for use in microgravity and exploration, EITD also provides services in systems engineering, safety and veriﬁcation documentation, crew training, launch site support, mission operations, and recovery. From the STS-100 (ISS 6A) mission and beyond, our hardware has been on board the ISS for over 17 years.
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MDA’s iconic space robotic solutions have worked with and alongside astronauts for more than 30 years to enhance and augment their capability. Canadian pioneer Synaptive Medical has worked with MDA to reimagine the soware used to operate Canadarm2 on the International Space Station to create Synaptive’s Modus V™ automated robotic digital microscope that enhances the accuracy and speed of surgeons performing delicate brain and spinal surgeries. The Canadian Space Agency’s involvement on the International Space Station continues to generate tangible long-term benefits in space, and on Earth.
Synaptive Medical Modus V™
Canadarm2 image: © NASA
ABOVE: Janet L. Kavandi, STS-104 mission specialist, connects cables and hoses from the newly installed Quest Airlock to Unity Node 1. Other STS104 and Expedition Two crewmembers are visible in the background working in the airlock. RIGHT: This image of the International Space Station and the docked Space Shuttle Endeavour, flying at an altitude of approximately 220 miles, was taken by Expedition 27 crewmember Paolo Nespoli from the Soyuz TMA-20 following its undocking on May 23, 2011 (USA time). The pictures taken by Nespoli are the first taken of a shuttle docked to the International Space Station from the perspective of a Russian Soyuz spacecraft. Onboard the Soyuz were Russian cosmonaut and Expedition 27 commander Dmitry Kondratyev; Nespoli, a European Space Agency astronaut; and NASA astronaut Cady Coleman. Coleman and Nespoli were both flight engineers. The three landed in Kazakhstan later that day, completing 159 days in
space. This was the final mission of Endeavour.
Space Operations Center in low-Earth orbit, serviced by Space Shuttle orbiters. The ISS configuration can be traced to early designs of the Space Station Freedom concept, developed during the 1980s, and the American-built segments of the ISS truss structure, its solar arrays, and thermal radiators – along with many of the American, European, and Japanese modules – underwent rigorous integration testing at the Space Station Processing Facility, a three-story, 457,000-square-foot building at the Kennedy Space Center, Cape Canaveral, Florida. Most of the U.S. modules, and the ISS Environmental Control and Life Support System, were developed at the Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Alabama. Like their Russian counterparts, American astronauts have participated in every one of the ISS’s first 56 expeditions; 51 U.S. astronauts have served aboard the station so far, and more than 140 Americans have visited the station. The station’s basic structural and functional elements – the 12 segments of the 356-foot-long integrated truss assembly, electric power system, and guidance, navigation, and control system – were designed and built in the United States by lead contractor Boeing. The truss assembly provides attachment points for modules, solar arrays, thermal control radiators, external payloads, utility lines, and the rails for the Mobile Servicing System. The first American module to be flown to the station was the Unity (Node 1) connector, a six-port cylinder berthed via a Pressurized
Mating Adapter to Zarya’s forward port that provides a link between the Russian and American Orbital Segments. The first of the three connecting modules, Unity, is shorter than the other two nodes, and in addition to providing passage for crewmembers between the Russian and American segments, Unity carries essential resources such as environmental control systems (i.e., air quality and temperature control), electricity, data, and fluids. The 15-foot-long Unity contains about 50,000 mechanical items, 216 gas and fluid lines, and 121 electrical cables. The U.S. laboratory module, Destiny, is berthed to Unity’s forward port. The primary research laboratory for U.S. payloads, the 28-footlong Destiny has a total of 24 racks (13 scientific payloads; 11 systems). Destiny’s experiments include investigations related to human life science, materials research, Earth observations, and commercial applications. The science equipment aboard Destiny includes the Minus Eighty Degree Laboratory Freezer for the ISS (MELFI). Before the arrival of the Cupola, the station’s best views of Earth could generally be found at Destiny’s 20-inch nadir window, where, in 2010, the Brazilian-made Window Observational Research Facility, or WORF, was installed to enable photographic research and imaging projects in the fields of geology, agriculture, ranching, and environmental or coastal changes. Destiny was named a U.S. National Laboratory in NASA’s 2005 Authorization Act. The Quest Joint Airlock, a pressurized module designed to host spacewalks using both American and Russian space suits, is berthed to Unity’s starboard port. The primary airlock for the ISS, the Quest Airlock consists of two compartments: the equipment lock, for suit maintenance and refurbishment, and the crew lock, which is fitted with the hatch for spacewalk exit and entry. Assembly of the ISS in low-Earth orbit was made possible by the cargo-lift capabilities of the Space Shuttle orbiters Discovery, Atlantis, and Endeavour. From the launch of Unity (Node 1) on Dec. 4, 1998, to the program’s final flight, Atlantis’s delivery and return of the MPLM Rafaello in July 2011, the Space Shuttle played a critical role
The Bigelow Expandable Activity Module (BEAM) was installed on the International Space Station on April 16, 2016. Following extraction from SpaceX’s Dragon cargo craft using the Canadarm2 robotic arm, ground controllers installed the expandable module to the aft port of Tranquility. Astronauts will enter BEAM on an occasional basis to conduct tests to validate the module’s overall performance and the capability of expandable habitats.
in assembling the largest structure ever built in space. Space Shuttles delivered many ISS crewmembers, as well as most of its modules and major components, including the truss segments and solar arrays. No space vehicle yet has come close to matching the Space Shuttle’s cargo capacity – a cargo bay 60 feet long and 15 feet wide (about the size of a school bus), capable of carrying up to 27,500 kilograms to low-Earth orbit. The shuttle was the only vehicle capable of returning payloads of significant size from the ISS. NASA’s ISS-related ground facilities include Kennedy Space Center, where the ISS modules and the Space Shuttle orbiters were prepared and missions were coordinated, launched, and managed. The ISS program itself is directed by the Johnson Space Center (JSC) in Houston, Texas, where Mission Control operates the U.S. Orbital Segment and manages activities across the ISS in coordination with international partners. JSC is the primary location for spacecraft design, development, mission integration, crew training, and administration of the Commercial Crew and Cargo Program. The ISS’s Payload Operations and Integration Center (POIC) at Marshall Space Flight Center is the headquarters for ISS science operations. POIC plans and controls the operations of U.S experiments, coordinates partner experiments aboard the station, and handles science communications with ISS crew. Both Johnson and Marshall are home to Telescience Support Centers (TSCs) that provide around-the-clock operations support for science operations aboard the ISS. Additional TSCs are located at the Ames Research Center at Moffett Field, Mountain View, California, and Glenn Research Center in Cleveland, Ohio.
THE KEY TO FUTURE LONG-TERM MISSIONS Over the past decade, the ISS has been supported by a growing network of indi-
viduals and organizations who view the station as an opportunity for growth. At the same time, the ISS is helping to foster private-sector innovation in space. The post-Space Shuttle era has seen the first private-sector cargo deliveries to the ISS, aboard the Dragon spacecraft, manufactured by SpaceX and launched from Falcon 9 rockets at Cape Canaveral, and Cygnus, made by Orbital Sciences (now Northrop Grumman) and launched aboard Antares rockets from Wallops Island, Virginia, and Atlas V rockets from Kennedy Space Center. A second phase of cargo resupply contracts was awarded in 2016 to SpaceX, Northrop Grumman, and Sierra Nevada Corporation for cargo delivery through 2024. In August 2018, NASA presented the first post-Space Shuttle crew to launch from U.S. soil. In 2019, the world’s first private company astronaut will join a test flight and mission aboard an American-made spacecraft, the Boeing CST-100 Starliner. The SpaceX Crew Dragon will also fly American astronauts, but the initial crew will be current NASA astronauts. On its website, the Center for the Advancement of Science in Space (CASIS), the organization that coordinates U.S. research on the ISS National Laboratory, offers thanks to more than 40 “implementation partners” dedicated to promoting and sustaining space-based research. These partners include NanoRacks, a company that developed a standardized payload system and instrumentation that can be used by non-NASA researchers aboard the ISS. It’s an unprecedented level of international and commercial collaboration in space, and NASA and its ISS partners – along with several other nations outside the ISS partnership – have begun to discuss a
global partnership for human exploration of the solar system beyond low-Earth orbit, using a lunar space station, Gateway, as a staging point. Establishing a presence on and around the Moon, with an eye toward Mars, will be a monumental undertaking, fraught with technical and logistical challenges that would be daunting for any agency to tackle alone. Discussions about how to meet those challenges are still in the early stages among experts from NASA and potential domestic and international Gateway partners – and in time, this may represent one of the most important precedents established by the ISS project. In an interview marking the 20th anniversary of the IGA, Lynn Cline, NASA’s lead negotiator for the agreement and the former deputy association administrator for Human Exploration and Operations, reflected on the historical importance of the agreement: “ … it established a framework for all these countries to work together successfully for the long term. What I hope it will have as a legacy for the future is that it’s a stepping-stone in research, in human spaceflight, an evolution to the next step.” As dramatically as the geopolitical environment has changed since the days of Sputnik, the peaceful uses of space have allowed the world’s best scientists and engineers to work across international lines and achieve astonishing things that, today, many people take for granted. When these partners achieve greater things, establishing a permanent human presence at the Moon and beyond, they’ll be building on a history that recorded the International Space Station as the flagship of peaceful international collaboration in space.
International Space Station I 20th Anniversary
Tech Transfer on Steroids NASA’s Effort to Boost Commercial Spaceflight BY JAN TEGLER
THE THIRD WAVE Ven Feng, manager of NASA’s International Space Station Transportation Integration Office, says the current push for
The Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) Kounotori 5 H-II Transfer Vehicle (HTV-5) is seen departing from the International Space Station. The cargo vehicle was berthed to the orbiting laboratory for five weeks until it was released on Sept. 28, 2015. HTV-5 delivered almost 5 tons of hardware and supplies.
commercialization of orbital flight is the latest wave of the idea that private industry could enter a domain that had previously always belonged to governments. “There was a wave in the 1980s and one in the 1990s,” Feng said. “I think this one really kicked off when administrator Mike Griffin [NASA Administrator Michael Griffin, 20052009] and Bill Gerstenmaier invested $500 million in 2006 in commercial transportation, transportation being one of the most expensive aspects of access to low-Earth orbit. I think when they looked at the Space Shuttle retiring and as a complement to
Constellation, they decided it was the right time to invest.” In 2004, President George W. Bush announced his Vision for Space Exploration. The administration’s space policy, which came to be known as the “Constellation Program,” called for completion of the ISS, retirement of the Space Shuttle, and returning man to the Moon by 2020. With the Space Shuttle anticipated to make its last flight in 2010, Griffin’s five-year, $500 million investment began the effort to build a new generation of launch vehicles, a program called Commercial Orbital Transportation Services (COTS).
ech transfer on steroids” is how Kathryn Lueders, manager of NASA’s Commercial Crew Program, describes the agency’s support for the private companies who are building spacecraft that will take American astronauts to the International Space Station (ISS). Speaking on a recent edition of Johnson Space Center’s official podcast, Lueders said the Commercial Crew Program is the result of decades of desire for a commercial capability to take things and people into space. NASA’s support has been instrumental in turning that desire into reality, she explains, making orbital flight more accessible. “I always tell people space is not just for NASA anymore,” Lueders remarked. “It is for all of us, every American.” In 2019, Boeing’s CST-100 Starliner and SpaceX’s Crew Dragon capsules are scheduled to begin ferrying crews to the ISS, restoring a capability that the United States has lacked since 2011 when the Space Shuttle Program ended. Since then, NASA has relied on Russia’s Soyuz spacecraft to transport crews to the ISS. Cargo is already being flown to the ISS commercially. Since 2012 and 2013 respectively, SpaceX’s Dragon and Orbital ATK’s (now Northrop Grumman Innovation Systems) Cygnus spacecraft have been delivering supplies and equipment to the station under NASA contracts. In the next several years, Sierra Nevada Corporation’s Dream Chaser will begin cargo resupply runs to the ISS. The unmanned freighters are the first products of a 30-year quest to get commercial spaceflight off the ground. But NASA’s support for the effort wasn’t always a given.
The SpaceX Dragon cargo craft approaches the International Space Station as both spacecraft were
orbiting over the Greek island of Crete.
“This was at a time when many people thought it was unlikely that private industry, especially on a firm, fixed-price basis, would be able to go out and design and build new rockets and spacecraft, and actually service low-Earth orbit,” Feng noted. Indeed, there had been strong opposition within NASA and some quarters of the U.S. government to the notion of commercial spaceflight for decades. In August 2000, NASA awarded
four small businesses 90-day contracts totaling $902,000 to study how to provide contingency cargo launch services for the ISS and what technology development or business planning would be needed. The funding was tied to the access to space studies begun by the agency in the mid-1990s, which proposed both cargo and crew resupply vehicles for the ISS. But this and subsequent programs with similar aims, including the Space Launch Initiative
and the Orbital Space Plane, never got off the ground. Some of the firms involved complained publicly about what they perceived as NASA’s bias against commercial spaceflight. Nevertheless, Lueders says that the idea of reliable commercial launch vehicles “planted a seed in several administrations about making space not just for NASA.”
COTS AND CRS With support finally in place to move ahead with commercial transportation to the ISS, a two-step acquisition strategy was
put in place to gain momentum quickly. Under the COTS program, NASA’s commercial partners via Space Act Agreements (NASA’s vehicle for partnering with external organizations) could demonstrate their capabilities. “There were the traditional big aerospace companies,” Feng said. “And then there were several that had expressed interest over the years who kept saying, ‘Hey, NASA, we can do this for you. Give us the requirements and then let us implement it the way we want to.’” After evaluation, NASA awarded Commercial Resupply Services (CRS) contracts in 2008 to two companies: SpaceX and Rocketplane Kistler. Later, Rocketplane Kistler was replaced by Orbital Sciences Corporation, now a subsidiary of Northrop Grumman Innovation Systems. The contracts covered delivery of cutting-edge science, critical ISS spares, and crew consumables, but the companies suggested that their vehicles could do more. “The COTS program had made their original requests for proposals in the 2006 time frame for cargo resupply [services],” Lueders recalled. “When they made those initial requests, companies did come in with concepts with how they were also developing
The Cygnus resupply ship from Orbital ATK (now Northrop Grumman Innovation Systems) is in its capture position as the Canadarm2 robotic arm slowly reaches out to grapple it in October 2016 during Expedition 49.
their crew transportation capability, it wasn’t just cargo. “At that time, station really needed cargo capability with the shuttle retirement,” she continued. “I was working for station and we built our initial concepts for being able to use the capability that [NASA COTS Program Manager] Alan Lindenmoyer and his team were investing in under the Space Act Agreements.”
COMMERCIAL CARGO Feng and Lueders agree that NASA’s decision to transform its role – from being an end-to-end manager of space vehicle development to outlining a small number of well-defined requirements for industry and leaving it to them to design and build cargo and crew vehicles – was a “catalyst” for the commercial cargo and crew programs. “We were not very prescriptive in dictating the implementation,” Feng explained. “We just said, ‘Do these things. You have to have a certain failure tolerance. You have to build
a proper interface with all of our systems – structural, life support, etc.’ Then we stepped back and said, ‘Whatever launch vehicle you choose, whatever configuration with a capsule or space plane, that’s up to you. Bring us 20 metric tons of upmass over this period of time.’” “We called that the CRS-1 contract,” he added. The agency has supported its commercial partners in many ways from the outset, Lueders said, offering them a wealth of knowledge they cannot access anywhere else. The knowledge the partners (SpaceX, Northrop Grumman Innovation Systems, Sierra Nevada Corporation, Boeing) have availed themselves of stretches back to NASA’s early spaceflight programs. “Apollo has been a wealth of experience,” Lueders said, citing the vehicle parachute testing NASA conducted decades ago during the historic program as an example of how SpaceX and Boeing have leveraged the agency’s data.
An artist’s conception of Sierra Nevada’s Dream Chaser spacecraft on orbit. Dream Chaser is slated to begin ISS cargo resupply operations in 2020.
“For these companies, it would have been cost-prohibitive for them to go and replicate all of the data and what we learned from doing those early human spaceflight missions with their capsule designs,” she explained. “They really learned from that.” NASA partners have turned to the agency not only because the data in its archives and the knowledge in the minds of its people help them more efficiently design spacecraft, it also allows them to be more efficient in a commercial sense. “The companies’ No. 1 goal was not to expand the knowledge base,” Lueders said. “They’re trying to, with the data they have, say, ‘How do I get to a spacecraft as quickly as possible?’” The economics of commercial spaceflight dictate that costs be kept under control. As Feng observes, commercial spaceflight providers were further incentivized to keep costs low by NASA’s firm, fixed-price CRS contracts and its COTS program requirement that commercial partners share in the cost of the COTS system development and demonstration.
“These companies put up their own money as well, in-kind contributions, so they had skin in the game. They had a strategic direction they wanted to take as companies and were investing their own funds alongside NASA’s funds. They’re taking much of the risk because it’s firm, fixed-price contracting. That said, ‘Hey, we’re really serious about wanting to do this.’” NASA’s support for its partners in the development of their vehicles has been extensive, said Feng. In addition to the store of data the companies have accessed, they’ve made use of NASA’s facilities and even its tooling in some cases. “They’ve also hired folks from the ranks of NASA with specific skills,” Feng noted. “They’ve made very good use of our patents, looking at our lessons learned and our testing results from White Sands [Test Facility]. The protective tile on SpaceX’s Dragon, for instance, is a derivative of what was on the Space Shuttle tailored for Dragon’s environment as a capsule.” Another example is flammability. NASA has an expansive database on the flammability
of a variety of materials. Consequently, cargo and crew vehicle providers haven’t had to waste time and money testing materials that have already been tested. “That has been extremely helpful to the companies not only for their initial design but also for anomalies,” Feng said. “If they can’t figure out what’s going on, they ask us if we can provide expertise. Across NASA’s centers and the NASA Engineering & Safety Center, we’ve offered a lot.” The contract framework NASA put in place, along with the deep well of spaceflight experience the agency made available to its partners, enabled them to progress rapidly. SpaceX’s Cargo Dragon made its first scheduled cargo flight to the ISS in October 2012. Orbital ATK’s Cygnus cargo resupply vehicle made its first delivery to the station in January 2014. To date, Cargo Dragon and Cygnus have made more than 20 resupply flights to the ISS. “In just six years, those two vendors have flown a total of 22 successful flights,” Feng said. “They’ve shown they’re very flexible and fast moving.” In 2020, SpaceX and Northrop Grumman Innovation Systems will be joined in cargo resupply by Sierra Nevada Corporation and its Dream Chaser “lifting-body” spacecraft. Dream Chaser differs in configuration from the capsule-style spacecraft NASA’s other partners
Sierra Nevada Corporation image
International Space Station I 20th Anniversary
have designed, capable of landing on a runway on its return from low-Earth orbit.
LEFT: Fire lights up a crystal-clear blue sky on Space Launch Complex 41 on Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida as a United Launch
COMMERCIAL CREW The momentum of the commercial cargo program spilled over into NASA’s Commercial Crew Program (CCP), said Lueders. Lueders had previously worked on the cargo program and took lessons learned with her to CCP. “We learned things from cargo that we said, ‘For crew, this will have to be different.’” Launching a program to help develop unmanned commercial spacecraft into vehicles
Alliance Atlas V rocket lofts NASA’s Juno planetary probe into space. RIGHT: A SpaceX Falcon Heavy rocket begins its demonstration flight with liftoff at 3:45 p.m. EST from Launch Complex 39A at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida. The Atlas V and Falcon Heavy are being certified to carry human beings into orbit.
capable of delivering living, breathing people to the ISS, rather than cargo, presents a different challenge, Lueders stressed. “With crew transportation, it has to be safe, reliable, and the risk level and risk tolerance go down. It was really important for us to start laying the foundation of how do we look at current gaps in industry that we need to beef up and invest in over the next few years.” NASA began that process in 2010 with the first phase of Commercial Crew Development. Once more, the agency took a big step back from its traditional role with clear, concise requirements for crew resupply vehicles.
International Space Station I 20th Anniversary
ABOVE: NASA astronauts Victor Glover (left) and Mike Hopkins in front of a SpaceX Crew Dragon capsule. The two are among the first four NASA astronauts who will fly into orbit aboard a Crew Dragon (or Dragon 2) spacecraft, which will return human spaceflight capability to the United States for the first time since the Space Shuttle Program was retired in 2011. LEFT: A mock-up of the Boeing CST-100 Starliner and the astronauts assigned to the first two flights, from left to right: Sunita Williams, Josh Cassada, Eric Boe, Nicole
“We told them we need a spacecraft that can safely fly four people to the space station and back,” Lueders said. “It has to be reliable and we want it to be cost-effective.” Another key difference between commercial cargo and commercial crew missions is the need for certification. NASA specifies that commercial crew delivery spacecraft and the launch vehicles they will use must
NASA photo by Robert Markowitz
Mann, and Christopher Ferguson.
A SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket returns to Earth for the second time. The mission marked the first reflight of a Falcon 9, which had previously flown during the fourth Commercial Resupply Services (CRS4) mission back in September 2014.
from zero to about 60 flights in eight years. The launch vehicle market will look different than it does today in four to five years.”
ORBITAL SPACEFLIGHT AT THE SPEED OF COMMERCE
satisfy its human-rating standards. The standards require higher levels of redundancy and fault tolerance than those that apply to commercial cargo spacecraft and launch vehicles. Because NASA has been the only American organization to fly people into space as yet, it is the only entity that employs such standards. “One of our goals is to help industry develop their human-rating standard,” Lueders said. “Right now we’re the only people that certify human-rated rockets. But that could change in the future.” NASA has been working with a range of organizations on packaging its standards and the knowledge that underpins them in a format that could be adopted by the commercial spaceflight industry. Lueders calls it another form of tech transfer taken from NASA’s “book of hard knocks.” “Fracture control” is an example of the agency’s human-rating requirements, Lueders said, specifying that launch vehicles taking crew to the ISS are constructed with “materials that don’t fatigue and if they fail, don’t fail in a catastrophic way.” When the launch vehicles Boeing’s Starliner and SpaceX’s Crew Dragon will use – the United Launch Alliance’s (ULA) Atlas V rocket and SpaceX’s Falcon 9 rocket – show compliance with the NASA human-rating standards, they are “certified” to lift their human payloads.
“We wanted to make sure the systems they had in place controlled the hazards that the vehicles expose the crew to,” Lueders explained.
THE COMMERCIAL LAUNCH INDUSTRY Feng maintains that NASA’s efforts to enable commercial spaceflight have also boosted America’s commercial launch industry. “If you look back 10 years, the fleet of U.S. launch vehicles was the shuttle, Delta, and Atlas [the latter two produced by ULA] in the U.S.,” Feng noted. Looking forward, he says NASA’s SLS – the heavy-lift rocket that will support NASA’s Orion human deep-space exploration vehicle – will be flying within several years. SpaceX’s Falcon 9 and Falcon Heavy are flying now, as are the Northrop Grumman Innovation Systems Antares 230 and ULA’s Atlas and Delta rocket fleet. ULA is also well into development for its Vulcan rocket. Blue Origin, another commercial spaceflight firm, is also entering the launch vehicle market with its New Shepherd and New Glenn reusable rockets. “I think a lot of that is due to the spark that was supported by CRS and CCP,” Feng said. “Folks are trying to get to more capable, more reliable, less expensive, quicker turnaround rockets. SpaceX, by way of their overall pricing and cadence, has gone
Lueders says that Boeing and SpaceX are scheduled to fly uncrewed demonstration missions with Starliner and Crew Dragon by the end of 2018. Demonstration missions to the ISS with crew aboard will begin early in 2019. The speed at which the commercial spaceflight industry is developing is eye-opening. Between 2006 and 2019 – just 13 years – a commercial capability to fly cargo and crew to the ISS has been put on a rapid path to success. NASA has and will continue to play a major role in enabling private industry to make space accessible. Along the way, the agency has gained as much as it has contributed, Lueders said, noting that its work with commercial spaceflight companies is a collaboration. “We come to the table and say, ‘This is kind of what we did for Space Shuttle and this is what we’ve been working with on the Orion side.’ But then they [SpaceX] come in and say, ‘This is what I learned on Cargo Dragon’ and the Boeing guys will say, ‘This is what we’ve learned and this is how we’re optimizing it.’ We all learn together and that’s the funnest part.” As Feng stresses, one of NASA’s original intents was to “foster the economy of lowEarth orbit.” Ultimately, it’s NASA’s goal that the spaceflight industry will be able to make a commercial success of providing services for and access to low-Earth orbit. Engaging commercial partners to provide resupply services for the ISS is a means of pioneering that success – the end game for NASA’s “tech transfer on steroids.” “We’ll see what other kinds of missions our partners might do,” Lueders said. “We’re in the process right now of understanding how we use the space station commercially. We’re already working with both providers [SpaceX and Boeing] on other passengers or other missions they might propose. That could provide a platform for other commercial and research uses in low-Earth orbit.”
International Space Station I 20th Anniversary
ISS and the Emerging Space Economy BY EDWARD GOLDSTEIN
hen President Ronald Reagan directed NASA to build a “permanently manned space station,” he stated in his 1984 State of the Union Address that this initiative would “build on America’s pioneer spirit” and lead to peaceful, economic, and scientific gain. Reagan also contended, “A space station will permit quantum leaps in our research in science, communications, and in metals and lifesaving medicines which could be manufactured only in space.” Reagan’s emphasis on commercial and economic opportunities reflected the maturation of the space program beyond the episodic human exploration missions of the 1960s and 1970s into an era of routine operations beginning in the 1980s, where the Space Shuttle was already demonstrating its utility for launching communications satellites into geosynchronous orbit and for enabling microgravity research in canisters labeled “Get Away Specials.” That same year, the Commercial Space Launch Act directed NASA to pursue commercial launch opportunities for its missions, which was another key step in opening up low-Earth orbit to commercial activities. Indeed, in NASA’s initial space station justification, of the eight functions the facility would serve, two were clearly oriented toward its commercial potential: • A laboratory in space for the conduct of science and the development of new technologies. • A manufacturing facility where human intelligence and the servicing capability of the station combine to enhance commercial opportunities in space. This rationale has been a constant throughout the development, construction and assembly, and operations of the International Space Station (ISS), and the designation by Congress in 2005 of the U.S. segment of the ISS as a “National Laboratory.”
Today, it remains one of the most prominent reasons for keeping the ISS or something like it operating beyond 2024. And while the promise of new metals and miracle drugs has not yet been fully realized from microgravity research, the scope of commercial activity on the ISS has broadened well beyond what was anticipated when the space station was first proposed to include a wide range of commercial research investments in facilities, life sciences, physical sciences, remote sensing, technology development, and education. Areas of particular promise include stem cell research, “Cool Flames” – or flames that continue burning with no visible flame – which may enable rockets to burn fuel with more efficiency, and additive manufacturing. This result was not predicted by computational models (based on high temperature chemistry) nor expected based on prior experimental work. This unique burning behavior highlights the need to better understand both low and intermediate temperature fuel chemistry and its effect on droplet combustion, having implications for spray combustion and fire safety. This unexpected observation has attracted international interest from researchers in academia, industry, and government laboratories. A Made in Space Additive Manufacturing Facility (AMF) allows for immediate repair of essential components, upgrades of existing hardware, installation of new hardware that is manufactured, and the manufacturing capability to support commercial interests on the ISS. Additive manufacturing is the process of building a part layer-by-layer, with an efficient use of the material. The process, also known as 3D printing, leads to a reduction in cost, mass, labor and production time. The ISS crew would be able to utilize the AMF to perform station maintenance, build tools, and repair sections of the station in case of an emergency.
THE NASA COMMITMENT NASA Deputy Program Manager for ISS Joel Montalbano is a lead driver of NASA’s commitment to ensure the commercial promise of the facility is realized. He describes its evolution as follows: “When we first started building the space station, the first few years were based on building the hardware, putting it together and connecting all the pieces, and trying to sort out all the operational agreements with the international partners. Once assembly was complete, we turned the page and began focusing on utilization and commercialization research.” Montalbano added that NASA has helped spur commercial markets through its commitment to support commercial cargo [Commercial Orbital Transportation Services – COTS] and crew deliveries to the ISS. With respect to cargo, he said, “Because of what we’ve done in the commercial cargo delivery world, we’ve generated two new rockets to go to lowEarth orbit: the Falcon 9 from SpaceX and the Antares rocket, now from Northrop Grumman Innovation Systems (the new name for Commercial Cargo provider Orbital ATK, which was acquired by Northrop Grumman in 2018). The space station generated two venues for companies to operate in low-Earth orbit. Those options didn’t exist before. You had to go with a government entity. That’s a huge benefit of what we’ve done with commercialization with the cargo, where we bought a service to deliver cargo.” Of course, NASA is also creating a new market for commercial crew flights to and from the ISS, with the Boeing CST-100 Starliner and SpaceX Crew Dragon scheduled to begin flying next year, and with nine astronauts assigned to these missions. Considerable effort was made to refine existing NASA requirements documents. Volumes of documents were improved and condensed into a focused set of hundreds rather than thousands of requirements, Ven Feng, manager of NASA’s International
A SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket lifts off from Space Launch Complex 40 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida, carrying the SpaceX Dragon resupply spacecraft. On its 14th commercial resupply services mission for NASA, Dragon delivered supplies, equipment, and new science experiments for technology research to the
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Space Station Transportation Integration Office, explained. “We put all of those into one book called the SSP 50808 [International Space Station to Commercial Orbital Transportation Services Interface Requirements Document]. That book is the same set of requirements that we use across the fleet of vehicles that come to the ISS. So it’s not only for Dragon and Cygnus, the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency is using it for their follow-on HTV-X [unmanned cargo spacecraft for ISS resupply]. Sierra Nevada’s Dream Chaser is also using the same book, as are Boeing’s CST-100 and SpaceX’s Crew Dragon.” Getting commercial oriented experiments up and down from the ISS is one thing; ensuring they are carefully tended once on orbit is another. “The way we are operating with the U.S. National Lab is 50 percent of NASA’s resources are dedicated to the National Lab and CASIS [the non-profit Center for the Advancement of Science in Space, which NASA designated in 2011 to manage the unique laboratory environment], where CASIS has developed the commercialization market,” noted Montalbano. “What that means is 50 percent of NASA’s resources goes to up National Lab mass, 50 percent of NASA’s crew time goes to National Lab and 50 percent of NASA’s down mass goes to National Lab. You can throw in power and data and everything you need to operate on the space station. We’ve allocated per Congress’ instruction 50 percent of NASA’s resources to build up the commercial market. We’re not finished and not even close to being finished, but we are taking steps to go in the direction of enabling markets that were unheard of before we had the space station.”
LEFT: NASA astronaut Scott Tingle performs research operations with the Microgravity Science Glovebox inside the U.S. Destiny Laboratory module. Tingle was working on the Metabolic Tracking experiment that looks at a particular type of medicine and how it interacts with human tissue cultures. Results could improve therapies in space and lead to better, cheaper drugs on Earth. RIGHT: In the grasp of the Japanese robotic arm, the CubeSat Deployer (upper right) releases a pair of NanoRacks CubeSat miniature satellites. BELOW: Astronaut Jack Fischer works with the Neutron Crystallographic Studies of Human Acetylcholinesterase for the Design of Accelerated Reactivators (CASIS PCG 6) experiment in the Japanese Experiment Module.
A ROBUST USER SEGMENT For seven years, NASA, CASIS, and the American Astronautical Society have held an annual conference devoted to ISS research and development opportunities. At this year’s conference in San Francisco, said Brian Talbot, CASIS’ vice president of marketing, “we had nearly 1,000 attendees and most were nontraditional. Sometimes, when
you go to typical space conferences you are just talking to yourself. At the ISS R&D Conference, we were talking to commercial, government, and academic researchers across a wide range of disciplines who have never done space-based research. For NASA and CASIS, that’s a huge indicator of both success and the potential for exciting space R&D to come in the next few years through the unique ISS opportunity.”
International Space Station I 20th Anniversary NASA astronaut Andrew Feustel is seen in the Cupola, holding sample bags of crystals grown under experimental conditions controlled by middle and high school students as part of the CASIS PCG-9 investigation
money for companies to help with hardware costs for flights to the ISS. The most recent MassChallenge grant awards went to Cellino Biotech, to investigate the potential to generate 200 to 500 million stem cells in microgravity for cell-based therapies for diseases such as Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, and hemophilia; Guardian Technologies, to develop miniaturized ionizing radiation detectors to enable early and remote detection of possible radiological weapons threats; and Maker Health, for AmpliRx, a lightweight pharmaceutical manufacturing instrument for distributed, affordable, and scalable production of medications. “We get a unique perspective into early stage space ventures,” said Warren Bates, CASIS’ director of business strategy & portfolio management. “We can then play the facilitator role to make matches between investors and these companies seeking capital. We had a pitch event at the ISS Research and Development Conference where we had 12 space startups pitch to a room of 75 people that contained investors with tens of billions of dollars under their control. We’re trying to increase the number of collisions between these innovative entrepreneurs and the people with the capital to accelerate the innovation in this ecosystem.” Bates added, “An exciting part of the ecosystem that we’ve also developed and will continue to develop is an on-line portal where companies seeking capital can host their investment opportunity with investors in this network that we’ve developed that’s now approaching 100 different investment groups. The system helps facilitate these contacts in a scalable way.” Talbot further explained that as opposed to CASIS’ early days, when it felt obligated to provide seed money to spur experimentation on the ISS, the organization for the past three
GROWTH OF IN-ORBIT COMMERCIAL FACILITIES A large enabler of these ISS commercial research activities is not only the availability of
For example, a conference workshop on using the ISS to support sustainable environmental practices featured a most unlikely investor in space research – the Target Corporation. Target and CASIS are sponsoring a “Cotton Sustainability Challenge” that provides researchers up to $1 million to run experiments on the ISS aimed at developing solutions for improving cotton crop production on Earth with fewer resource input requirements (i.e., irrigation). The challenge, said Talbot, demonstrates how the station can be used to further experimentation on “plant biology, raw material acquisition, water purification to remote sensing applications that farmers can use. There was a big awareness that we can use the International Space Station in a variety of ways to solve big challenges and one that is really on our doorstep is sustainability.” Other participants in the workshop were also non-traditional space actors developing ISS experiments: Coca Cola, Goodyear Tire & Rubber Co. (“Pushing the Limits of Silica Fibers for Tire Applications”), and Delta Faucets (ISS research to study formation of water droplets, water flow, and pressure in microgravity). To give a sense of how extensively the ISS is being utilized for commercial purposes, in fiscal year 2017 more than half of the 76 payloads launched to the ISS National Lab involved commercial entities – from Fortune 500 companies like those above to new startups. Current projects are aimed at enabling lower engine emissions, higher-yield crop production, and new therapies for bone and muscle diseases. To encourage the participation of startups with ISS research, ISS prime contractor Boeing and CASIS are sponsoring an accelerator called MassChallenge, which provides seed
years has operated on a “value impact construct.” “We reached out and worked with the experts that have done this before and got best practice analogues from other national labs, from academia, from the private sector and all over the place,” he said. “The value impact construct looks at economics, innovation, and humankind social benefit – what is returned to the American taxpayer. So we can now, based on the projects that have flown or are projected to fly, project things like incremental revenue and accelerated time to market, the number of new jobs, the total adjustable market, the number of innovation pathways.” Added Bates, “What we were trying to do was find ways to better target and select the most impactful research for us to undertake on the National Lab, but for us to be able to communicate the quality of it in a credible way and in terms that weren’t new metrics that we made up but in terms that other R&D organizations large and small, commercial and academic, use to describe the impact we are having.” Another CASIS innovation Talbot noted is “Resource Utilization Planning.” “When I go out and target new companies and new projects, I understand where those utilization targets are by research increments there. I can tell you that for Expedition 57 and 58 I am fully utilized, that for Expeditions 59 and 60 I have a gap of three units of life science projects that are simple, which could be purchased for utilization experiments. We have gotten down to a level where we can understand not just the value and the impact of the project, but how to target projects that will drive utilization. When you look at our value impact portfolio quadrant to manage these projects, the top right is high-impact, high-feasibility. The top left is high-impact, higher-risk, the big step change innovation projects. The bottom right is the high-feasibility, low-impact. We are using all three of those quadrants to drive projects that will result in the optimal value and impact back to the nation, as well as driving full utilization. And if we can in an orderly fashion hit all of those goals, then we are blowing doors open on a commercially viable, necessary, and vital platform in low-Earth orbit.”
RIGHT: Astronaut Alexander Gerst of ESA (European Space Agency) works inside the Japanese Kibo laboratory module retrieving protein crystal growth samples from a science freezer, also known as the Minus Eighty-Degree Laboratory Freezer for ISS (MELFI). BELOW RIGHT: A “Made in Space” 3D printer prints test samples while the
printer is in the Microgravity Science Glovebox.
space on the ISS National Lab, the allocation of significant crew time to operate experiments, and the increasing pace of cargo and resupply missions by NASA commercial cargo providers SpaceX, Northrop-Grumman Innovation Systems, and Sierra Nevada Corporation, but also the development by commercial providers of specific facilities for in-orbit operations. I spoke to a pioneer in this field, Jeffrey Manber, the co-founder and CEO of NanoRacks, the first company to own and market its own hardware and services onboard the ISS, which now extend to the NanoRacks Internal Platform (NanoLabs), NanoRacks CubeSat Deployer, NanoRacks External Platform, and in 2019, the NanoRacks Airlock Module (Bishop), built with partners Boeing and Thales Alenia Space, which will be used for experiments and deployment of CubeSats and microsats. “The smartest folks in our industry just knew back in 2009 that the chances were the station would lose its funding by 2015,” he said. “That was the general policy at that time and so who would be foolish enough to make an investment in an unproven market to do something that had never been done before, when the current policy was to end funding in six or seven years? I felt there was no chance the space station would end in 2015 or 2016, and was willing to invest or gamble my own money that it would just sit there.” Armed with the idea from two colleagues for a platform to house small research containers on the ISS, Manber recalled, “I approached NASA and said, ‘I don’t want your money. What I want is the right to build hardware, put it on the station, or buy it off the shelf, and market to whom I wish.’ Basically they agreed as long as it was safe and as long as it upheld the honor of the National Lab. In other words, no coffee mugs or stuff like that. …Today we have customers from 32 nations and we just celebrated over 700 payloads, and we have deployed about 230 satellites.” Manber points to the growing market for deploying small cubesats from the ISS as “probably the biggest application for orbiting platforms.” And therein lies another story. “Actually NASA came to us and said we have the JEM Small Satellite Orbital Deployer [J-SSOD] under a barter arrangement with the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency [JAXA]
and if you can find a customer to deploy CubeSats you can try using this. We went to everybody in the country and no one was interested. They said, ‘What, the space station? Crazy.’ And finally, I found a customer and believe it or not it was the University of Hanoi, … So, we deployed the University of Hanoi satellite, and as they say in the movies, the phone wouldn’t stop ringing because of the beautiful picture that they took. And people have since come onboard due to the several unique advantages of using the space station for satellite deployment. No. 1, we have ample up mass, ample rise up. No. 2, you are riding inside the vehicle in self storage, not on the outside. No. 3, you have the astronauts to help
out. No. 4, until we came along, 100 percent of satellites were deployed on the day of launch. … We have a growing number of customers who launch CubeSats with us, and they get up there and they wait. The difficult part has ended. You are in space. You’ve launched and you can deploy when you wish.” “One of the lessons of the commercialization of the ISS is that everybody in the 1980s thought, myself included, that if you get the space station up there, we’ll discover the cure for cancer. We have not yet done that. I do hope that a customer makes an extraordinary breakthrough in the microgravity environment of the ISS. But the lesson is that you cannot plan a market. It is a lesson that we
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LEFT: Flight engineer Mark Vande Hei swaps out a payload card from the TangoLab-1 facility and places it into the TangoLab-2 facility. TangoLab provides a standardized platform and open architecture for experimental modules called CubeLabs. CubeLab modules may be developed for use in 3D tissue and cell cultures. ABOVE: Koichi Wakata, Expedition 38 flight engineer,
in the Japanese Experiment Module (JEM)
know from socialism, that you cannot predict success. And it took a small commercial company to come in and say, ‘We won’t create the market, we will create the environment in a public-private partnership with NASA.’ … So far, the market is steering us in a different direction – of innovative ways to deploy satellites and in space manufacturing. The lesson is the same as in every American marketplace. Space is no different. And that is, a government agency cannot dictate what the market success will be. Congress cannot dictate. The market dictates.” NASA’s Montalbano observed, “The CubeSat market has blown up. You have people deploying cubesats and now they are deploying these little postage [stamp] size satellites. ISS has played a significant role in allowing that market to take off.” The market has led to new entrants into the ISS research enabling business, including a start-up company from Kentucky, Space Tango, which is filling new demand for spacebased research with its two Tango Labs containing 10 centimeter by 10 centimeter by 10 centimeter CubeLab modules that can run experiments either automatically or be manually controlled from the ground. “One of our big things is we do everything in-house,” said Twyman Clements, Space Tango’s CEO and co-founder. “We design, build, test, and operate really under one roof. We work with the end customer to find out what they really want, just like a psychologist. …No project is the ex-
act same, but we know how to take from the experiences of flying 88 different experiments and quickly iterate and get designs down and get something to fly that works. …Since our first operational launch in February 2017, we have flown 53 different payloads and 88 different experiments. It really served us well encouraging a lot of different customers to fly and use microgravity and get their data down within two hours of it happening.” Clements added, “The way the space station has been built, we see the backbone, the base infrastructure there for companies like us to integrate, to innovate and change things relatively quickly. We are going to be using the space station for the next couple of years for different kinds of research – materials, implantables [medical devices], transplantables, biomedical, semiconductors. I don’t think there’s going to be any one answer. I think there’s going to be many. You don’t need to be some tenured professor at a university or at NASA to use the ISS. It’s a national lab. There’s companies like ours that have built business cases on helping people use it. It’s a very accessible facility for all, the country, and for the organizations, the companies within it.”
THE ISS FACES THE FUTURE The Trump administration’s proposal to end government funding for operating the ISS by 2025 has now put a focus on the facility’s future. Under new NASA Administrator Jim
Pressurized Module (JPM). The JEM Small Satellite Orbital Deployer (J-SSOD) installed on the Multi-Purpose Experiment Platform (MPEP), is visible.
Bridenstine, the agency is in discussion with several international companies to take over operations of the ISS and run it as a commercial laboratory. Meanwhile, work continues to upgrade the ISS’ commercial capabilities, including: an upgrade to the station’s solar arrays; a microgravity glove box to facilitate life science research; new, more compact exercise equipment for the astronauts onboard combining a treadmill, bicycle and resistive exercise device into one item – something that would clearly have potential for exploration; and concepts for developing the capability to refuel orbiting satellites. “We’re taking the time to understand the direction and understand the commercial need on how we’re going to make the changes we need to make, and what we are doing today is looking at what is required on station to operate late into the 2020s, regardless of who operates it,” said NASA’s Montalbano. Whatever the outcome of the ISS’ management arrangements, its development over time as a hub for commercial research stands out as one of NASA’s signal accomplishments in its now 60 years of existence.
International Space Station I 20th Anniversary
Boeing and the International Space Station
A close-up view of Node 1 in its work stand in the Space Station Processing Facility shows two of its six hatches that would serve as docking ports. The module was the first element of the International Space Station to be manufactured in the United States and the first scheduled to be launched on the Space Shuttle.
ASA selected Boeing as prime contractor for the International Space Station on Aug. 17, 1993; the original cost-plus-award-fee contract began on Jan. 13, 1995. However, the aerospace giant’s involvement with the manned space station effort actually began in 1988, with Work Package 4 on the U.S. Space Station Freedom, which later was merged with the Russian Mir 2 program to become the ISS. Boeing and its heritage companies – McDonnell Douglas, Rockwell, and the original Boeing – all played major roles in the design, construction, and integration of all major U.S. components. “Node 1, the main building block attaching the U.S. lab and the pressurized module, which
Boeing also designed and built; the U.S. lab, the main element the trusses attach to and a longer module than the Node, outfitted for all the science on the U.S. side; the trusses, from outboard solar array to outboard solar array. I like to say we have more than a million drawings in the building of space station with Boeing or heritage company names on them,” current Boeing ISS Program Manager Mark Mulqueen noted. “We helped in common hardware throughout ISS, which we built and helped them integrate – ducts, racks, etc. We helped the international partners and NASA verify their drawings and that post-test correlations were done correctly and were worthy of certification. Through NASA, we assisted in the successful
development of their modules; those agencies and companies are very credible and know what they’re doing. Anything we could re-use from our modules we built and sent overseas to be integrated before their units went to Florida for launch.” Mulqueen has been part of the effort since 1988 and Freedom, holding a number of ISS management jobs through the last 30 years. Prior to his current role, he was deputy program manager for the Commercial Crew Program that is building Boeing’s Starliner spacecraft to launch crews from the United States to the ISS and other low-Earth orbit (LEO) destinations. His previous positions include ISS deputy program manager; ISS Vehicle Program director; ISS Mechanical,
BY J.R. WILSON
Structural Extra-Vehicle Activity and Robotics director; Mechanical Design associate director; and ISS Power Module deputy director. “There were schedule and technical challenges, but we overcame those to build a very robust platform that is now exceeding expectations in its 20th year on orbit,” he said. “Boeing assisted NASA in the integration of all international elements, both the interfaces, power, air, water, hatches, everything to make sure when we got to orbit everything fit up and executed as planned. We also worked with the first Russian module and mating with the U.S. first module, which was the kickoff of the station. “Even when they were at KSC [Kennedy Space Center] together going through final assembly, the components did not meet up. We had great confidence in our digital assembly methods, which we use on commercial airplanes. I don’t think it was any riskier than trying to orient these 20,000-pound platforms into each other. We do it with our airplanes consistently and the ISS proved it works 100 percent, as we had no issues at all. We’re going to do something similar with the Gateway, with elements made to the same standards all the international partners are building to, so again we should have no issues mating all these elements in deep space.” Drawing on lessons learned from the ISS, the Gateway, planned for construction in the early 2020s, will be a lunar-orbit operations and research outpost serving as a communications hub, science laboratory,
Backdropped by a blue and white Earth, Space Shuttle Endeavour approaches the International Space Station during STS-123 rendezvous and docking operations. Docking occurred at 10:49 p.m. (CDT) on March 12, 2008. The Canadian-built Dextre robotic system and the logistics module for the Japanese Kibo laboratory are visible in Endeavour’s cargo bay.
short-term habitation module, and holding area for rovers and other robots. It also is intended to be a staging point for human and robotic exploration of the Moon and, in the early 2030s, the launch point for NASA’s first crewed mission to Mars. Boeing also is responsible for maintaining the ISS at peak performance levels so that the full value of the unique research laboratory is available to NASA, its international partners, other U.S. government agencies, and private companies. It is contracted to continue providing engineering support services, resources, and personnel to the station through Sept. 20, 2020, although Mulqueen said a four-year extension is being negotiated. “Our engineering support services include sustainment of the platform, operations in orbit, and the flight operations director; providing spares for parts that are in wearout and upgrades for those we’re trying to enhance,” he explained. “That will continue into the future, to keep ISS flying through U.S. government and agencies requirements to develop spaceflight and continue human spaceflight knowledge gained from working and living in orbit before we take on the rigors of deep space, where problems are harder to recover from.”
Building and sustaining a permanent crewed space station in low-Earth orbit for two decades with no serious problems and no casualties on the ISS itself has been an unprecedented success for Boeing and all those involved. But it required developing a spirit and resourcefulness unseen since the first four centuries of the European exploration and conquest of the Western Hemisphere. “It’s one thing to be able to take a 20-yearold airplane into a hangar and upgrade the cockpit, change out the seats, replace the galley, etc., and keep flying it. We don’t have that access to the ISS, so we rely on a lot of on-orbit sensing data to understand what is going on. We can identify activities, from crew exercising to berthing of a visiting vehicle, due to the dynamic sensing we do,” Mulqueen said. “We do a lot of data recording and assessments dialogue with NASA about what we’re seeing. There’s a lot of science behind the basic operations and whether we have correctly predicted wear-out rather than just waiting for something to fail.” Piece-by-piece assembly of the ISS in orbit was completed in 2011, although it was expected that additional elements might be added later.
International Space Station I 20th Anniversary
During the STS-119 mission’s first spacewalk, astronauts Richard Arnold and Steve Swanson (out of frame) connected bolts to permanently attach the S6 truss segment of the International Space Station to S5. The spacewalkers plugged in power and data connectors to the truss, prepared a radiator to cool it, opened boxes containing the new solar arrays, and deployed the Beta Gimbal Assemblies, containing masts that support the solar arrays.
repairable on-site or disposable in orbit, to be replaced by the new, smaller versions. Prior to the end of shuttle missions, Boeing worked to ensure both U.S. and international partner components not only would connect properly to the ISS, but also would work properly with the station software. An example of that was the March 11, 2008, launch, aboard Space Shuttle Endeavour (STS-123), of two major partner components: Canada’s Dextre robotic device and a segment of Japan’s Kibo laboratory. Contributed by the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA), Kibo was designed to increase the station’s research capability in a variety of disciplines. Dextre, from the Canadian Space Agency (CSA), works with the station’s Canadarm2 robotic arm to perform delicate tasks. “Our job is to verify that software from various organizations can talk to one another and, if they can’t, to suggest and implement corrective actions,” said John Royal, Boeing’s Space Exploration Software integration manager at the time. “In regard to Dextre,
we designed and built a test platform that represented a segment of the space station and provided commands to the robot to see if it would respond correctly. “We also conducted simulations at Boeing’s Software Integration Laboratory in Houston. During the testing, we did find that some corrective actions were necessary for driving the software on the space station. Sometimes organizations can interpret requirements differently and we are here to make sure everyone is on the same page.” On March 11, 2009, Space Shuttle Discovery (STS-119) delivered the last major Boeingbuilt element – the Starboard 6 (S6) truss, vital to the proper functioning of the ISS – and its solar array wings and batteries, completing the U.S. “core” of the station. The 31,000-pound, 45-foot-long S6 truss segment spent more time on the ground than any other single ISS element. It arrived at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center, Florida, (where Boeing is prime contractor for payload processing) on Dec. 17, 2002. It was assembled
At end of assembly, the station – at 357 feet by 240 feet by 45 feet – was bigger than a football field, comprising 159 components and weighing about 1 million pounds (including visiting vehicles). It had the volume of a fivebedroom house (32,400 cubic feet), solar arrays the size of eight basketball courts, and 52 operations computers. Provision of ISS elements was global, with major components coming from the United States, Russia, Germany, Italy, Canada, and Japan. Designing, building and operating the International Space Station involved 21 separate terrestrial installations. Seven Mission Control Centers managed flight operations in the beginning – NASA’s Johnson Space Center in Houston for the shuttle and payloads, NASA’s Marshall Spaceflight Center in Huntsville, Alabama, JEM (Japan), Columbia (Germany), MSS (Canada), Roscosmos (Russia), and ATM (France). The retirement of the Space Shuttle in 2011 made it impossible to launch or recover any further large components. That required a complete overhaul of the way the space station had been designed and built, which included large elements intended to be returned to Earth for repair, then taken back to the ISS by the shuttle. Without that vehicle, however, many parts of the station had to be redesigned to be both smaller and either
An artist’s conception depicts Boeing’s CST-100 Starliner spacecraft docking to the International
and mated to its solar arrays and batteries in the Space Station Processing Facility, with a Boeing team regularly maintaining, cleaning, and inspecting it for corrosion. Boeing also provided the fluid support for ammonia operations used to cool the hardware’s electrical components, placed the truss into its payload canister, and transported the element to the launch pad. In November 2009, more than 14 tons of large spare parts for the station’s electrical, plumbing, air conditioning, communications, and robotics systems – 15 elements in all, 12 of which were built by Boeing – were transported to the ISS by Space Shuttle Atlantis (STS-129) in the shuttle program’s largest spare parts mission. “This mission is very important to ensuring the ISS has maximum operational flexibility with a complete set of critical Orbital Replacement Units before the Space Shuttle fleet retires,” Joy Bryant, vice president and program manager for Boeing’s International Space Station Program, said at the time. “The station has exceeded our expectations from a lifecycle design standpoint. These replacement components will ensure the station can remain operational for many years to come
as the U.S. National Laboratory ramps up its science activities.” While it will not match the shuttle’s cargo capacity, Boeing is gearing up to launch America’s first manned mission to the ISS since the shuttle’s retirement – the CST-100 Starliner commercial crew spacecraft. The first mission is slated to take place in mid-2019, and will be commanded by Boeing’s Chris Ferguson, who led the final Space Shuttle mission. Also onboard will be two NASA astronauts, retired U.S. Air Force Col. Eric Boe, making his third spaceflight, and Marine Corps Lt. Col. Nicole Mann, an F/A-18 fighter pilot on her first mission into space as the first female astronaut to fly a new spacecraft on its inaugural mission. “We congratulate all the astronauts chosen to fly to the space station on commercially developed systems. We’re taking important steps for this nation and toward development of a thriving commercial space ecosystem,” said Leanne Caret, president and CEO of Boeing Defense, Space & Security. “The engineer in me always thought if I’m not flying a spaceship, I ought to be part of the team building one,” Ferguson said. “My fingerprints are all over the Starliner and I’m
thrilled to get the chance to go back to space on a vehicle that I helped design from the ground up. Riding along with me are all of the members of the Boeing team who have put their hearts and souls into this spacecraft.” Ferguson, who will be making his fourth spaceflight, has been an integral part of the Starliner program since retiring from NASA and joining Boeing in 2011. He spent more than 40 days in space for NASA during three shuttle missions. As the ISS celebrates 20 years of continuous manned operations – and with some questions about how its future will evolve – Mulqueen predicts Boeing will continue as the International Space Station’s principal industry overseer, and then carry that experience into the future and far beyond LEO. “Looking to the future, we continue to work at ways to be more efficient, to manage the vehicle safely, and to look at systems to expand our ability to get to deep space. ISS has a lot of life left in it still. We built it and have used it diligently so that it still functions well. Whatever NASA and the international partners want to do in the future, I think Boeing can help support that,” he predicted. “Commercial crew, much like commercial cargo, grew out of ISS with the shuttle retirement and the need for the U.S. and international partners to get to the space station. And our plans are to continue into U.S. spaceflight. Our history is very deep in human spaceflight, and it is natural for us to continue to LEO platforms – Gateway to the Moon and on to Mars.” With that in mind, Boeing is actively seeking further work on the ISS with NASA, as well as future opportunities in U.S. commercial and foreign manned space systems. It will be a future built on the old premise that “the past is prelude” and the experience and skills Boeing has developed through the ISS, including international recognition for its legacy in human spaceflight. “Boeing and its heritage companies are very proud of that heritage, and the fact we’ve safely had folks in orbit for more than 18 years. The most impressive part has been associating with NASA to keep humans alive and doing real science out there, developing a robust platform that gives us confidence to go back to the Moon and the Gateway project,” Mulqueen concluded. “Some people take it for granted, given how well ISS has performed, but it involved a lot of sleepless nights. Exploration is part of our nation’s DNA, and I’m looking forward to future Boeing and NASA leaders returning us to the Moon and then on to Mars.”
International Space Station I 20th Anniversary
A Narrative Around the Details ISS Challenges and Anomalies
t the Johnson Space Center (JSC), and at every other NASA center with a hand in managing the International Space Station (ISS), there are case studies and lessons-learned databases on every significant anomaly that has arisen during the two decades the station has been in operation. They are not simply shortform documents or synopses of a problem faced and resolved. “There’s a narrative around the details,” Brian Derkowski said. Derkowski is the manager of the ISS On-Orbit Engineering Office responsible for the ISS Mission Evaluation Room (MER) and the ISS anomaly resolution and engineering support to the flight control team. The instructive power of the story that goes with the particulars of any anomalous event – large or small – is something NASA has striven to internalize over the 20-year history of the ISS, and indeed across the six decades of the agency’s existence. The ISS has a few stories. At around 10:00 in the morning East Coast time on March 30, 2017, veteran U.S. astronaut Peggy Whitson was on a spacewalk outside the ISS doing some routine maintenance. In this case, Whitson and her spacewalk (or extravehicular activity, EVA) companion, astronaut Shane Kimbrough, were installing a thermal shield on an unused docking port on the ISS. The port needed protection against space debris and radiation. “Peggy, I don’t have a shield,” Kimbrough said over the UHF radio to Whitson. “What?” she replied. “Yeah, I don’t have a shield,” Kimbrough reiterated. “Where is it?” she asked. “It’s right by the radiator,” she said, answering her own question. “It’s moving at about half-a-foot-a-second and it looks like straight away from the radiator angle.” “We copy, and we see it,” said a controller from NASA’s Mission Control Center at JSC.
With that, the 5-foot shield floated blithely off into space, joining 20,000-plus other pieces of sizable debris orbiting Earth. Whitson and Kimbrough had planned to install a total of four such shields during a 6.5-hour EVA. They now had just a trio. What to do? “Despite the rigor we put into preparation and planning, those types of anomalies occaisionally occur,” Derkowski acknowledged. As with all EVAs, Whitson and Kimbrough had only a few hours of time available to work outside the space station. If a timely solution to the loss of the shield was going to be arrived at and executed, it would have to happen very quickly. “Our team in the control center met and rapidly came up with a work-around,” Derkowski said. “Within an hour or so, they had the procedures defined well enough to call up to the EVA crew in real-time and execute the fix.” The fix was effected by retrieving a thermal blanket that had been removed from a port earlier in the EVA. Whitson and Kimbrough fitted the improvised cover to the final port. It wasn’t a perfect fit, but it would effectively prevent exposure to high temperatures and micrometeoroid debris until a purpose-built replacement could be put on-orbit. “That’s the beauty of having all the ISS teams – engineering, operations, safety – all coming together and working issues in real-time,” Derkowski said.
NASA astronaut Peggy Whitson conducts a spacewalk in support of the International Space Station. During one of the expedition’s EVAs, a thermal and micrometeoroid shield was lost, one of four needed to protect the Tranquility Node port from which the Pressurized Mating Adapter-3 (PMA-3) was moved to a new location. Mission Control and the astronauts effected a temporary replacement for the shield.
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Spacewalk support personnel quickly teamed up for a solution to cover the Tranquility Node’s port after a thermal and micrometeoroid shield was inadvertently lost during a spacewalk. The team supporting EVA Officer John Mularski explored options in a room nearby Mission Control, and chose to install a cover that had been removed
earlier from the Pressurized Mating Adapter-3.
It also illustrates the ability of ISS’ managers to improvise. Improvisation is a talent in high demand among those tasked with responding to the unexpected challenges that emerge in the operation of the space station. The various engineering and flight control teams have established troubleshooting procedures that apply to any anomaly event. “But sometimes, we’ll exhaust those without resolving the issue,” Derkowski acknowledged. “Improvisation comes into play quite frequently. That’s where the NASA team will get together to talk about what we’ve done, what steps have been taken, what we might do, and the risk associated with taking proposed steps. When you’re improvising a troubleshooting procedure on-orbit, major or minor, there’s a degree of risk associated, which we always discuss before launching into improvised troubleshooting.”
COMMON PROCEDURES, UNCOMMON PEOPLE The need to identify and resolve ISS anomalies quickly is obvious. Space, even nearby space, is an inhospitable environment. But the need for speed in problem-solving doesn’t displace methodology and procedure. It makes them more important. NASA and the ISS flight control and engineering teams at JSC have a long-established methodology in terms of how they respond to anomalies. The MER, along with the flight control team and the rest of the NASA community, is part of the anomaly resolution legacy. All significant ISS anomalies are discussed and worked in the MER. It is not a new concept. “Anomaly resolution has been refined and evolved through the [20-year] course of the ISS program, but it has its roots in earlier programs as well,” Derkowski said. There were MERs for the Apollo, Skylab (America’s first space station), and Space Shuttle programs. Each accumulated and built upon the databases, case studies, and narratives arising from operational challenges and anomalies. The information is part of the record, available to the ISS MER and other NASA programs. In addition, most communication loops between the ISS and the flight
control team are recorded and available for review should the MER, engineering, or flight control teams wish to consult them. Sharing the accumulated knowledge is, in its own right, a key common procedure within the ISS program, Derkowski said. “It’s really important, because when you have an anomaly, you want not only the procedures [that] tell you how to respond, but common technical data that’s as visible to as many people as possible. You all want to be looking at the same data for the on-orbit anomaly.” The eyes surveying the data matter too. The ISS MER has institutional knowledge stored within the people who staff it. They’re not just in the MER or even at JSC itself, but farther afield. “That’s resident not only here at JSC but at centers throughout NASA and our partners, which had a hand in developing the current ISS system,” Derkowski added. “The body of technical work is also shared with our flight control team counterparts. In some cases, the flight control team knows the systems just as well as the engineering support teams.” While the reservoir of experience is distributed, it’s still a rare and difficult-to-come-by commodity. The relative number of people who have worked on, with, or around the International Space Station, is not surprisingly, tiny. “I think we have a really good mix of personnel right now,” Paul Rathbun said.
Rathbun manages the Vehicle Integration Office at JSC and is also a former MER manager. “There are still a number of folks who worked the early days of the space station, who worked through its assembly and learned good lessons along the way. As we’ve had folks move on, we have had a chance to transition some of their knowledge.” Doing so isn’t easy, Rathbun and Derkowski admit. But it is vital to the future of the ISS and other follow-on programs. “As the program grows older,” Derkowski said, “one of the challenges is to make sure that tacit knowledge – knowledge inherent to the experts whether they’re on the engineering or operations side – is documented so that when they move on to a different job or retirement, that knowledge remains for the benefit of the rest of the team.”
REACHING OUT, REACHING IN Retained knowledge and experience with past failures come in handy both in resolving anomalies and in provisioning the space station for expected and unexpected failures. Having the right components on hand can make a huge difference in response time when something goes awry, say, with an electrical or computer component. “Responding to that could take a couple weeks to plan, but I’ve seen plans devised
European Space Agency astronaut Luca Parmitano, Expedition 36 flight engineer, participates in an EVA at the ISS. During the 6-hour, 7-minute spacewalk, Parmitano and NASA astronaut Chris Cassidy (out of frame), flight engineer, prepared the space station for a new Russian module and performed additional installations on the station’s backbone. It was during this July 9, 2013 spacewalk that Parmitano’s helmet first started
and executed in three days,” Derkowski said. “If the anomaly affects critical ISS functionality, I’ve seen an [anomaly] event happen on a Saturday and by the following Tuesday, we were ready to go do an EVA.” The failure of a computer located on the exterior of the ISS on Saturday, May 20, 2017, is the anomaly to which Derkowski refers. Known as a multiplexer-demultiplexer (MDM), the computer is one of two units on the station used to route commands to its solar power system, radiators, cooling loops, and other equipment. Though another backup external MDM assumed those control functions when the first failed, they are critical enough that the ISS team wanted to get a replacement installed as soon as possible to restore full redundancy. The computer failure was ultimately traced to a faulty internal circuit card. At JSC, the MER, engineering, and flight control teams devised a plan for an EVA to replace the failed unit as soon as possible. The plan would require an astronaut, in this case ISS veteran Whitson, to assemble and test a spare MDM to replace the failed device that had been installed only two months earlier. Whitson had the spare, which NASA calls an Orbital Replacement Unit (ORU), on hand thanks to routine re-provisioning of the ISS, which is done with an eye firmly focused on anomaly resolution. Knowing what spares to send via unmanned resupply flights is a bit science and a bit art, according to Bill Robbins, manager of International Space Station logistics and the Maintenance Office at JSC. For a start, there is only a limited amount of “up-mass” – the ability to launch and set aside storage for spares – for the ISS. As such, the logistics team must not only anticipate critical component failures, but also determine whether getting the requisite ORU to the station and storing it there is feasible. “We do have a good deal of [spares] history, mean time between failures data, actual performance data,” Robbins explained. “And
working with the systems teams, we have a thorough understanding of the impact of the failure of any given piece of hardware. We’ve gone to great lengths in the past few years to posture ourselves with the right set of spares already positioned on board so that in the event of a failure, the spare is immediately available to the crew.” The practice is similar to the long-established pre-positioning of assets by the U.S. military in far-flung operational theaters from
Europe and Africa to Asia and the Middle East. Having ORUs aboard the ISS also alleviates uncertainties in resupply launch schedules, whether those uncertainties are technical or political. Of course, capitalizing on the opportunity to utilize a spare on hand requires that the ISS crew (typically, five members) have some knowledge of the systems they may need to work on. The balance of how much troubleshooting knowledge a crewmember
American Volunteer Group (AVG) pilots, better known as the Flying Tigers, run for their P-40B Tomahawks in a posed photo. The vastly outnumbered AVG had only 79 qualified pilots and 62 operable aircraft on Dec. 2, 1941, but they and their shark-mouthed P-40s became legendary for their achievements against the Japanese over China and Burma.
National Archives photo
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should have is an issue, since the primary focus of each is in conducting the projects and scientific experiments that each nation places on the ISS. “The crew does get familiarization training with the systems and how they work,” Robbins said. “They get what we call ‘skillsbased training,’ which means they’re taught the skills to operate and maintain onboard systems in a generic sense rather than trying to memorize detailed procedures for multiple systems.” The combination of training and an onboard ORU allowed JSC’s MER and other control teams to map out the MDM assembly, test, and an EVA to swap out the failed component in just three days. After losing functionality on Saturday, Whitson and fellow astronaut Jack Fischer ventured out of the
The Extravehicular Mobility Unit (EMU) spacesuit helmet worn by European Space Agency astronaut Luca Parmitano during a July 16 spacewalk that was cut short when the helmet began to fill with water is captured in a close-up image in the Quest airlock of the International Space Station. After assembling and powering up the empty suit as if it were about to go out on another spacewalk, Parmitano and NASA astronaut Chris Cassidy, both Expedition 36 flight engineers, observed water once again leaking into the helmet, which helped investigators discover what had caused the failure.
station’s Quest airlock to put the new MDM in place and install a pair of antennas to improve wireless communications for future EVAs. (It’s worth pointing out that not every ISS anomaly requires an EVA. In fact, many don’t require the crew to act at all.) The ISS has near continuous communications with the JSC’s Mission Control Center via S band (voice, telemetry) and Ku-band (video, high-speed internet) frequencies. The channels allow the crew
ample contact with the ground for private conferences, calls with the media, schools, and relatives, or specialized troubleshooting conferences. The channels are also conduits for remote control of onboard systems. Ground controllers now have the ability to command the vast majority of ISS systems from Earth, Derkowski said. “A good example is the ground control command of robotics. In the past, a crew
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NASA astronaut Rick Mastracchio, Expedition 38 flight engineer, participates in the second of two spacewalks, spread over a four-day period, designed to allow the crew to change out a faulty coolant pump on the exterior of the ISS. Mastracchio was joined on both spacewalks by NASA astronaut Mike Hopkins.
member would have to manipulate an actuator and move the big robotic arm on the space station, but in the past couple of years, we’ve had the ability to do that on the ground, which has alleviated a lot of crew workload on board.” Solar arrays, the electrical system, and coolant pumps can be manipulated as well. However, the last of these demonstrated the risk in believing that systems work as you expect.
ASSUMPTIONS There really isn’t a situation in which the well-worn “don’t assume” mantra does not apply. It certainly extends to anomaly resolution for the ISS. On a Wednesday morning in December 2013, a pump module in the ISS’ External Thermal Control System (ETCS) unexpectedly shut down when a fault detector noted far-below-normal coolant temperatures. The ETCS has two separate external ammonia coolant loops that jointly transport heat away from the ISS’ electronic equipment and toward respective cooling radiators. With one loop operating much too cold due to the apparent failure of an ammonia pump temperature control valve, the station was in jeopardy of losing half its cooling capacity and possibly having ammonia enter its cabin. Derkowski led the Close Call Investigation team that later investigated the incident. Investigation teams are common review mechanisms in aviation and spaceflight. Members of the MER, engineering, flight, and control teams and outside experts typically make up an ISS investigative board. After the shutdown, the ISS Mission Control team successfully re-powered the affected loop. However, they soon discovered that a control valve in the pump was not closing correctly, leading to the ammonia in the loop becoming too cold for nominal operation. Since a single cooling loop cannot support all of the ISS’ cooling needs, ground teams were forced to begin shutting down equipment in order to reduce the heat generation of the ISS systems. The loss of cooling would potentially limit experiments aboard the station. Addressing it was important, but as it turned out, unintentionally risky.
“We took some actions that were preplanned, but some of those actions resulted in the loss of internal water coolant flow to one of our heat exchangers,” Derkowski explained. “The exchanger is the junction between the external ammonia system and the internal coolant. We got very close to freezing our interface heat exchangers.” Freezing the heat exchangers could trigger a potential rupture and the entry of ammonia into the cabin. The actions taken by the ground control team were based on suppositions made when the ETCS was initially conceived. There was an underlying assumption that cold ammonia resulting from failure in a cooling loop could be avoided if systems were configured correctly, Derkowski recalled. “That underlying assumption from the design phase of the space station persisted. The short [answer] of the investigation was that this assumption was flawed. If the systems were configured a certain way, there was still risk of freezing the heat exchanger. We determined there were definitely operational procedures to update and some changes to how we operate the ISS in terms of automatic recovery steps embedded in software.” Ultimately, astronauts Rick Mastracchio and Michael Hopkins would undertake another EVA to remove and replace the affected pump module in late December. The swap
was successful, but with every additional EVA comes a degree of risk. That’s why a mishap board and/or the anomaly team look at just about every unforeseen event or phenomenon on the ISS. And, as Derkowski said, they try not to let time pressure affect their postevent analysis. “We try to resist the temptation to dismiss an anomaly as explained or a one-off event. We really take things seriously.” The bare necessity of doing so was brought home by one of the closest calls NASA has ever had during a spacewalk, ironically following another cooling issue seven months prior.
FLUID ASSUMPTIONS In May 2013, the ISS crew spotted a growing ammonia coolant leak in the station’s U.S. cooling system. The seepage they noticed was dramatically increased from a recognized long-running, low-rate leak in one of the cooling legs. Left unchecked, it could shut down the cooling loop. The MER and Mission Control team began working on a plan to fix the leak via a contingency EVA. Two days later, NASA astronauts Tom Marshburn and Chris Cassidy exited the station’s Quest airlock on a spacewalk to check the area where the coolant leak was spotted and replace the system’s pump
International Space Station I 20th Anniversary
flow control subassembly unit with a spare. Their labors were a success and no major leaks were found. Shortly thereafter, ISS Commander Chris Hadfield, Marshburn, and cosmonaut Roman Romanenko departed the ISS in a Soyuz TMA07M capsule. They were replaced on May 28 with the arrival of another Soyuz carrying NASA’s Karen Nyberg, Italian astronaut Luca Parmitano, and cosmonaut Fyodor Yurchikhin. On July 9, another EVA was undertaken by Parmitano and Cassidy to perform a variety of scheduled maintenance tasks on the ISS exterior. Upon returning from the EVA, Cassidy and Parmitano found a small quantity of water in the helmet of Parmitano’s spacesuit. They informed Mission Control and related their assumption that the water was the product of a leaky drink bag inside Parmitano’s helmet. That conclusion was accepted and agreed with by the ground team. A week later, Parmitano and Cassidy found themselves outside the ISS yet again, tackling more scheduled maintenance tasks. Forty-four minutes into the EVA, Parmitano reported that he felt a moderate quantity of water in the back of his helmet. “Chris and I were ahead on our tasks, so we were starting our third task and I felt some
water on the back of my head,” Parmitano said after the incident. “I realized that it was cold water, it was not a normal feeling, so I told ground control.” The spacewalk was expected to last about 6.5 hours, but after Parmitano reported the presence of water, mission controllers aborted the EVA about 60 minutes in. “I started going back to the airlock and the water kept trickling,” Parmitano said. “It completely covered my eyes and my nose. It was really hard to see. I couldn’t hear anything. It was really hard to communicate. I went back using just memory, basically going back to the airlock until I found it.” “At that moment, as I turned ‘upside-down,’ two things happen: the sun sets, and my ability to see – already compromised by the water – completely vanishes, making my eyes useless; but worse than that, the water covers my nose, a really awful sensation that I make worse by my vain attempts to move the water by shaking my head. By now, the upper part of the helmet is full of water, and I can’t even be sure that the next time I breathe I will fill my lungs with air and not liquid.” Parmitano came perilously close to drowning in his spacesuit outside the ISS. Back inside the hatch, the Italian and his fellow
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crewmembers found approximately 1.5 liters of water filling the helmet. In the aftermath, a Mishap Investigation Board met and issued a report on Feb. 27, 2014, with 16 key findings/recommendations. Chief among these was that the water buildup on the July 9 EVA was not discussed in enough detail. If the leaky drink bag assumption had been challenged, the report concluded, mission controllers probably would have realized that the “issue needed to be investigated further before pressing ahead” to the next spacewalk. It was another lesson that assumption can potentially lead to disaster. And yet, there are practical limits to the energy or attention that can be devoted to any single anomaly. “It’s the trade-off we deal with daily, but the key is not to dismiss an off-nominal event, rather decide as a team if and how we address it,” Derkowski said. Still, it’s a trade-off that isn’t made without taking in a diverse range of input.
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While anchored to a foot restraint on the end of the Orbiter Boom Sensor System (OBSS), astronaut Scott Parazynski, STS-120 mission specialist, assesses his repair work as the station’s P6 solar array is fully deployed during the mission’s fourth EVA while Space Shuttle Discovery was docked with the International Space Station. During the 7-hour, 19-minute spacewalk, Parazynski cut a snagged wire and installed homemade stabilizers designed to strengthen the damaged solar array’s structure and stability in the vicinity of the damage. Astronaut Doug Wheelock (out of frame), mission specialist, assisted from the truss by keeping an eye on the distance between Parazynski and the array.
them heard. I think the anomaly-resolution process is very conducive to that. Having an international partnership is a great benefit.” Rathbun alludes to the ISS’ Russian, European, and Canadian partners, all of whom participate in anomaly resolution or review. “When I used to lead anomaly-resolution teams, I wanted diverse input from across the communities that were participating or had a stake in the issue. You never knew where a creative thought was going to come from,” he said. There is wide agreement among ISS stakeholders that applying more brainpower to any problem is a good thing. The international ISS management team includes every major agency that contributes to the mission. “In the Mission Evaluation Room, we bring in multilateral anomaly-resolution teams with our engineering partners at other space agencies,” Derkowski said. “So when you
have an issue that involves an interface or affects multiple parties, we’re all looking at that issue together.” Those solving problems at JSC not only benefit from international partners but from the diversity of their own experience. Cross-disciplinary knowledge is gained every day through the working relationships of different teams resident at Johnson Space Center and throughout the ISS infrastructure. Robbins acknowledges that his role as ISS logistics and maintenance manager broadens his perspective daily. “We buy spares but we also do the longrange maintenance planning, so with those functions, I work with all of the different discipline teams – reliability, safety, quality teams. We manage the ground logistics infrastructure, including hardware repair, so I work with all of those companies. I get exposed to a great number of disciplines and entities.”
Rathbun works with organizations across the ISS program as well, absorbing knowledge from the Systems Engineering and Integration Office, Transportation Integration, and other teams. Other NASA field centers, from Kennedy Space Center, Marshall Space Flight Center and Glenn Research Center, to Goddard Space Flight Center, Ames Research Center, Jet Propulsion Laboratory, and White Sands Test Facility, regularly consult with the JSC team. The same holds true for personnel in other NASA programs. Such a broad-based approach will have to continue as long as the ISS operates, presently expected to reach out to 2028. As it does, it will see new anomalies, including some associated with the commercial supply delivery systems, which the U.S space industry is developing to serve it. “We are already starting to think about how to respond to potential issues on the ISS or at the provider vehicle to ISS interface,” Derkowski said. “How would we plan for those? How would we respond in a timely manner? We do know from our history and experience that there are a lot of challenges when you do first-time operations. They’ve been part of all NASA programs. We’re definitely taking steps on our side to make sure we’re ready.”
International Space Station I 20th Anniversary
ISS: The Program Managers Speak BY J.R. WILSON
RANDOLPH H. “RANDY” BRINKLEY – 1994-1999 “ISS was a completely new space station. NASA spent a couple of months looking at redesigns, figuring out how to incorporate the Russian elements being built for Mir 2 and find a way that would ultimately work,” recalled Randy Brinkley, the first of five U.S. ISS program managers (PMs) to date. “Several months went by with three different teams looking at different configurations, with and without the Russians. “At the end of the day, the configuration that exists today was selected and the decision was made to move forward, including how to get the Russians on board at the State
At the Khrunichev Space Center in Moscow, from the left, astronaut Robert D. Cabana, STS-88 mission commander; Royce Mitchell, Boeing program manager for the Zarya control module; Anatoly Kiselev, president of Khrunichev Space Center; Randy Brinkley, program manager, International Space Station; astronaut William Shepherd, mission commander for Expedition 1; and Yuri P. Gidzenko, Expedition 1 Soyuz commander.
Department level, intergovernmental agreements, MOUs [Memoranda of Understanding] and convincing the Japanese, Europeans, and Canadian partners as well! The U.S. owned more than 50 percent, but there were all kinds of things that had to be dealt with.” ISS is not an official name, on the order of Freedom, Skylab, or Mir, but a description of the platform. “They wouldn’t let us name the station itself, so we named every element ourselves. Zarya, which means ‘sunrise,’ was the Russian segment and the first element in space; Unity was the first U.S. node that recognized bringing the Russians on board; Destiny was the lab, referring to the science that was the reason it was being built,” Brinkley explained. Brinkley believes establishing a good working relationship with the Russians and maintaining it was both his biggest challenge
and his greatest achievement as PM. It went beyond politics and language to major cultural differences on top of the technical and operational challenges. “Out of those efforts we came up with the slogan – ‘We Will Find a Way’ – that the Russians bought into. It came from a conversation with my Russian counterpart when I said ‘if we find a way,’ and he stopped me and said, ‘No, Randy, we must find a way.’ And that became our slogan,” he said. “The technical issues, frankly, were secondary to the bigger issues. “We were in the middle of the change from the USSR to the Russian Federation. Then you had to use metric and do it all in real time. Not any of the space station elements had ever been tested on the ground to see if they would actually fit and work – the first time we did it was in space. Another huge
he International Space Station (ISS) can trace its origins to the early 1980s and two previous planned orbital platforms: the U.S. Space Station Freedom and the Soviet Union’s Mir 2. While the United States and the Soviet Union had been Cold War and Space Race rivals, they agreed to a joint venture, including other international partners who had been involved with the U.S. program since the 1980s. In 1994, a new NASA program manager, Randolph H. “Randy” Brinkley, was appointed to bring new leadership and a cohesive structure to the International Space Station effort, including ensuring the U.S. and Russian space agencies – NASA and Roscosmos – followed through on their commitment to fully cooperate in the design, construction, and ultimate permanent manning of the space station. That also included sharing responsibilities for transporting crew and cargo to lowEarth orbit and meeting the requirements and expectations of America’s other international partners: ESA (European Space Agency, representing 22 countries), JAXA (Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency), and CSA (Canadian Space Agency).
problem was analytical evaluation versus test-to-failure. The Russian approach was to build 10 prototypes and test seven of them to failure, but we couldn’t afford that. So, we had to do design analysis, which they never did.” The cultural differences – flavored by each nation’s politics – ran deep. And while often frustrating – on both sides – Brinkley said all parties involved in the program knew the only way to get the station built “was to sit down, ignore where we came from, and figure out the right thing to do.” “It really involved building trust and overcoming our cultural differences. I thought they would welcome it all because they were empowered, but it actually made them culturally uncomfortable. They couldn’t make a decision; every night they had to call back to Moscow to make sure every decision was approved. They were on a close leash. We couldn’t really get anything done Monday through Thursday, but on Friday afternoon they would do something. The politicians were no real help. “They’re very dedicated professionals, great engineers, highly educated. It takes a long time to develop a relationship with the Russians, but once you do, it will last a lifetime. But you have to earn their respect; you couldn’t just show up or, if you couldn’t make a meeting, send somebody else, because it was all about personal relationships. We never could have built it without them – and neither could they. So we all had to buy into finding a way to get it done.”
Participants pose for a photo at the Space Station Processing Facility ceremony transferring the “Leonardo” Multipurpose Logistics Module (MPLM) from the Italian Space Agency, Agenzia Spaziale Italiana (ASI), to NASA. From left, they are astronaut Jim Voss, European Space Agency astronauts Umberto Guidoni of Italy and Christer Fuglesang of Sweden, NASA International Space Station Program Manager Randy Brinkley, NASA Administrator Daniel S. Goldin, ASI President Sergio De Julio, and Stephen Francois, director, International Space Station Launch Site Support at Kennedy Space Center (KSC).
They also had to overcome doubt and criticism from politicians, the media, and the public in each team’s home country. “There were so many critics who said there was no way to overcome all the obstacles. When we started, nobody believed we would ever build the space station, much less launch it or that it would actually operate. But we did build it, we did launch it – with no spare – and it actually worked. It’s probably one of the 10 great engineering feats in modern history, if not in history in general.” For his part, Brinkley said getting there was a matter of “surrounding myself with the right people, listening to them and recognizing from day one that the only thing I knew was how much I didn’t know. I tried to provide leadership and expertise and be there for them. I was an engineer in the Marine Corps, but that’s not my expertise. That was being a squadron commander and fighter pilot, not so much on design. My forte was operational.” Brinkley gave the Russians major credit for making the ISS possible and keeping the program alive through a series of problems that otherwise would have derailed it. He gives equal credit to the Space Shuttle,
without which, he said, the station never could have been built. And he believes the ISS itself to be a vital part of any future manned space exploration – long-duration flights and habitats to conquer the known and unknown hazards of living and working on Mars, in the asteroid belt, and on the moons of the outer planets. “I think the space station, in terms of what we’ve learned about being able to operate in low-Earth orbit for extended periods of time, will be better recognized when we leverage that experience for the next step in space exploration, venturing out to Mars and elsewhere. One hundred years from now, who knows, but I think history will be fairly kind to the ISS,” he predicted. But first, the program must survive perhaps the most difficult and game-changing event in the history of manned space: commercialization. “It will be interesting to see how NASA and the government transition the space station to a commercial entity and their ability not to think like a government, but to find a way for it to be commercially viable. To this day, one of the biggest impediments of the station returning the original investment is
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not the space station itself, but the cost of access to space, which remains extremely high,” he concluded. “At some point in time, how the space station does overall will involve reducing the cost of getting to space and back – especially back. It’s still very costly to bring things downhill. And the commercial programs are breaking that paradigm. Poundto-orbit is dramatically less today. Instead of paying $150 million to launch a satellite, now you can do it for half that. But it still gets really costly when that pound is somebody’s dinner.”
TOMMY W. HOLLOWAY – 1999-2002 Space Shuttle Program Manager Tommy Holloway, who previously was the first director of the Shuttle/Mir program, was asked to move over to the space station program when Brinkley retired in 1999. ISS was nearing the end of a two-year hiatus that followed the launch of the first two major elements by Russia (Zarya, providing attitude control, translation, electricity, and communications) on Nov. 20, 1998, and the United States (Unity) two weeks later. The shuttle-delivered Unity mission also included the first crew to enter the ISS: shuttle (STS-88) Commander Bob Cabana, with Cosmonaut Sergei Krikalev. Holloway was still settling into the job when the Russians launched the third module (Zvezda, providing sleep stations, toilet, kitchen, environmental control, exercise equipment, and communications) on July 12, 2000. The Zarya/Unity then rendezvoused and docked with Zvezda, making the ISS habitable for the first time. Permanent occupation began on Nov. 20, 2000, with the Soyuz launch of Expedition 1 (William Shepard, Sergei Krikalev and Yuri Gidzenko). Although it may have appeared things were back on track, Holloway found himself addressing three significant problems. “The first thing I encountered was a program-wide approach that everybody had their own schedule. The program had been slipping a few months at a time for a couple of years and people had started working to their own schedules. So I tried to instill that schedules were part of the program and we had to work to schedules. It was a matter of attitude,” he recalled. “Second, the government team was moving toward having program operations in the same group as an integration element focused on getting the hardware developed. I thought we needed a stand-alone group for operations, which included the control center management team.
Tommy W. Holloway, former ISS Program Manager.
“Another issue was during the budget development for 2002, we found we didn’t have enough money, which really wasn’t unusual. During the time things were not moving, the program actually was running under budget, but things had been added that were not funded. I felt the budget was underfunded, so I submitted a 2002 budget request that was substantially over guidelines. That resulted in OMB [Office of Management and Budget] establishing an independent cost evaluation committee to review the program. I thought that committee knew the answer before they started and were not really interested in the data. It was painful.”
The committee’s recommendations led to canceling a couple of elements, including a Japanese-supplied centrifuge NASA was to launch. The Russians owned, launched, and had 100 percent usage of their own material, but the other international partners used NASA resources, along with their own. NASA “charged” them for launches – not money, but a sort of bartering deal. The barter associated with the centrifuge was deleted and spent on something else. Each partner has its own labs on board ISS, but NASA has an interest in each of those as part of the bartering agreements.
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Right: Tommy W. Holloway in the Mission Operations Control Room (MOCR) during Day 1 of the STS-3 mission. Below: Former ISS program manager and current Associate Administrator for NASA’s Human Exploration and Operations
Although he is doubtful about a successful commercialization of the ISS, especially by 2024 – “I would predict, at the end of the day, the system will figure out how to keep it going until 2028” – Holloway sees the space station as a blueprint for how future manned space exploration should be done, with a major role for commercial entities. “If we decide to go to Mars – and when I say we, the U.S. can’t do that by ourselves – it should be an international partnership, like the ISS. Behind everything we did in space, the overriding thing was flying people into space for the glory. But that day has passed for this country, and now it needs to be a benefit-driven system, which means commercialization paying a big part of it is probably a good thing. It is a transition that is hard for some of the elements in NASA to make, but I think it will be huge from this point forward.”
WILLIAM H. GERSTENMAIER – 2002-2005
together, with parts coming from all over the world, is absolutely amazing – especially since none of the hardware saw its physical-and data-mating pieces until they got into orbit. They’ve done more than 100 spacewalks to maintain it and keep it working. It’s an amazing thing.”
Despite problems with funding, support, language and cultural differences, and the metric system, the most difficult – and potentially program-ending – event in the ISS’ history during its first decade was the loss of Columbia on Feb. 1, 2003. The resulting twoand-one-half-year grounding of the shuttle fleet consumed most of the tenure of the ISS’ third program manager, William Gerstenmaier, who later became associate administrator for the Human Exploration and Operations Directorate at NASA Headquarters.
“We were directed on what to do after the OMB review,” Holloway said. “For example, propulsion aboard the station is all Russian and NASA has no backup system. We had a program to do that, but made the decision to cancel that when we had to match the program to the budget we got, although there were some things – like the centrifuge – over which we had no control. It was not a fun time. “The EU and Canadian partners were not directly affected by NASA’s budget, but the Japanese were. They had representatives at JSC [Johnson Space Center] and we met with them on a regular basis. We worked directly with the international project managers, not the space agency leaders. I tried to implement the idea that this really was an international space station. I tried to take everyone into consideration and treat everyone equally in the decision-making process and not always favor NASA. Having a good relationship with the project level people, be it Russians or Canadians or whatever, helped.” The Russians had been flying their space stations for 20 years, while NASA’s experience was three missions on Skylab. On the ISS, NASA is the integrating organization and overall in charge of flight safety issues. But the Russians might have been considered the glue holding everything together. “After Columbia, we wouldn’t have had a space program if it hadn’t been for the Russians. In the big picture, the Russians have been very cooperative and did what they needed to do. And they were very capable. They might give us a hard time about something from time to time, but, overall, they were very supportive of the program,” he said. The schedule, the first major problem he faced, was where Holloway believes he made his mark. “I think my biggest accomplishment was I kept things on track while I was program manager. I’ve been amazed – and I had nothing to do with it – how well this system has operated and the operations and sustainment guys have been able to work around problems they’ve encountered. “Apollo 11 was the biggest achievement of the 20th century, with only minor problems along the way, but putting this station
Mission Directorate William “Bill” Gerstenmaier.
Courtesy Scott Andrews
ISS assembly had continued on schedule until the Columbia accident. The hiatus on assembly that resulted was accompanied by a reduction in crewmembers to two at a time to decrease the logistics required to support the station. For 29 months, until shuttle flights resumed with STS-114 on July 26, 2005, Roscosmos was responsible for all ISS resupply missions, and for crew rotation for 41 months, until STS-121 on July 4, 2006, when the number of crew aboard the station returned to three. The work by the NASA team to assess the consumables needed was a huge undertaking. There was no idea when shuttle flights would return. Keeping a crew safe on ISS for this period was a tribute to the amazing ISS team. But the post-Columbia grounding was merely a preview of what was to come – and what Gerstenmaier and his team had to prepare the program to incorporate. “It was an interesting time. We were given the decree that the Space Shuttle was going to be retired at some point fairly soon. The Space Shuttle was a critical element of being able to supply the space station, as well as to actually assemble the space station. We were really scrambling on how we were going to replace the capability of the shuttle with a new system and a new vehicle. We had to figure out the right phasing and work through all of the political activities associated with that,” he recalled.
NASA astronaut Mark Kelly (right), STS-124 commander, talks with Bill Gerstenmaier (left), and Chris Scolese (center), former NASA associate administrator and current center director of NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center, beneath Space Shuttle Discovery after landing.
“Under [NASA] Administrator Sean O’Keefe, the Vision for Space Exploration was established, and the Vision framework involved retirement of the Space Shuttle and a goal of lunar exploration. Under Administrator [Michael D.] Griffin [O’Keefe’s successor], the details of Vision were developed. This included the exact number of remaining shuttle flights and details of an exploration strategy – Ares I, Ares V [rockets], Altair lunar lander, and Orion [Crew Exploration Vehicle] – that began with the Moon.” The plan included designing and building a new four-man spacecraft – the Orion, part of the Constellation Program – to complete assembly of the ISS, return to the Moon no later than 2020, and eventually take humans to Mars. Work on the Orion spacecraft and its Ares rockets, named after the Greek equivalent of the Roman god Mars, began in 2005. “Mike wanted to expedite that activity to actually move a little bit faster than what had been done under O’Keefe. He was looking to try to ramp down the Space Shuttle Program even faster than the previous administrator had done. We were under a lot of pressure to try to figure out creative ways to
finish construction of the ISS and keep the space station supplied and functional and able to do research,” Gerstenmaier said. “We also had to convince our international partners that NASA would support their module delivery with shuttle and that we had a way through commercial cargo to support long term ISS research for NASA and our partners.” The new approach also required major changes in the way NASA did business. The ISS was designed with hardware that was intended to be returned to the ground, repaired, then flown back up on the shuttle. Without it, a completely different tactic was required for ISS hardware. “We had to now look at hardware as being expendable, where it could not be returned, because we lost a lot of return capability when the shuttle went away. So that hardware had to essentially be disposed of on-orbit, then replaced in a steady stream from the ground. It changed our entire management and operations philosophy with the station,” he explained. “We were in a tremendous transition period and tremendous uncertainty about exactly how we were going to realize the vision of
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completing station assembly and then also moving into research. It looks all fine and well-ordered from today, but at that time there was a tremendous amount of angst in the system about how we were going to pull all of this off. I’ll tell you frankly, even today we’re not fully transitioned … but at least we’re down the path.” It also was essential to honor NASA’s commitments to all of the international partners. Oxygen was another problem. “We used to just change out the huge, big oxygen tanks on the outside of the airlock. We could not do that anymore, so we had to essentially put a quick disconnect on the side so we could recharge them. We didn’t have the capability to bring high-pressure oxygen up, so now we have an oxygen recharge system and a compressor that actually raises the pressure from supply tanks,” he said.
Michael Suffredini, former program manager, International Space Station (ISS), is seen with a scale model of the International Space Station at NASA Headquarters in Washington, D.C., Jan. 14, 2011.
“There was a ton of work of taking a station that was designed to be reserviced and operated with the shuttle in place to the new system. The big changes were really in the oxygen system, the nitrogen system, and the communication systems. All of those had to be redesigned to accommodate some new, smaller transportation system.”
MICHAEL SUFFREDINI – 2005-2015 When Michael Suffredini took over as ISS program manager in 2005, he had no idea he would become the space station’s longest serving administrator at 10 years.
“A number of factors played into that. My boss stayed in his job that whole period. The job evolved. I took over right after return to flight following the Columbia accident (and resumption of assembly). It was a very dynamic period. We also were bringing on the commercial providers and transitioning to a more commercial user support standpoint,” he recalled. “There was always something different with ISS. It was a very engaging job, always on your mind, and that made it that much more exciting. You always have responsibility for the crew on orbit. I never got to the point where I was looking around for what I wanted to do next. With giant programs like this,
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there is a lot of transition; I think they kept me because the head of human operations missions – Gerstenmaier – and I worked well together and had a lot of trust in each other.” It was, indeed, a period of great change for the program: recovery from the Space Shuttle’s post-Columbia grounding; doubling of the size of the ISS crew; completion of assembly, immediately followed by the permanent end of shuttle flights; the resulting return to reliance on paid seats aboard the Soyuz for U.S. astronauts and their international partners, as NASA no longer had the ability to launch humans into space; transition from a construction program to an operational science lab; gearing up for commercial space transport to get America back into manned space flight and initial preparations for commercialization of the ISS by 2024. “Getting back to flight was a big deal. As an agency, we were trying to balance risk with mission and it was important for us to know when we ultimately had to go do something and give the shuttle program the relief it needed as they were getting ready to fly again. It was a challenging period because we had to stand up and say ‘the mission is important and we have to get on with it,’” he explained. “Then there was bringing the partners on and their vehicles. We had to start balancing more of the partner needs than we had in the past once their elements arrived. We had some phenomenally challenging failure modes. In one we had to move the solar arrays around and, at the same time, we discovered the big joint on the starboard side had gotten chewed up. Both problems were pretty dramatic. We focused on the solar array – and it was a minor miracle we pulled it off while the shuttle was docked. Once the shuttle left, we did a lot more work on it.” The other issues, while not as dramatic or life-threatening, nonetheless posed major challenges to the future of the ISS and manned space exploration. “The next most challenging thing was bringing on the commercial program. I was a big fan of the COTS [Commercial Orbital Transportation Services] effort, but the transition from when the shuttle retired to the first flight of those vehicles in a timely fashion took a lot longer than we had anticipated. Between that and the HTV [JAXA H-II Transfer Vehicle], we made it to the first commercial vehicle flight carrying cargo to the ISS,” Suffredini said. “The last one, which they’re still working on, is transitioning to a station that works more on a commercial model. NASA typically plans things two years in advance and we had to recognize, with six or seven cargo flights a year, we didn’t need as much detail as we evolved to a more customer-oriented
Michael Suffredini, former ISS program manager.
process. ISS changed the mindset. With the shuttle, if it wasn’t safe, we didn’t go. But with ISS, we are flying every day and can’t just stop. We decided maybe our experiments didn’t have to be built with such reliability and lack of risk.” Becoming customer-oriented and implementing a commercial model also meant a change in NASA’s relationship with its international partners, as well as other
potential customers of the ISS’ laboratory facilities, giving them a greater voice in future decisions. “We involved the partners in any processes we were changing to validate the safety of a payload or commercial spacecraft coming to the ISS. When it came to commercial spacecraft, we already had a sort of template in how we handled HTVs coming to the U.S. Segment. The partners had the latitude to
International Space Station I 20th Anniversary
for six months, and had to be maintained. The price thereafter was adjusted for inflation, which was high in Russia at the time. There’s no doubt they were making money off the seats, but it wasn’t really that much.” It was a period of tough decisions for NASA – and Suffredini. “I can’t tell you how much the partners did not appreciate that situation, but the Russians stepped up, increasing their Soyuz
manufacturing capability, knowing they eventually would have to take that back down, which is not something the Russians like to do. But they kept us viable throughout this period, so I have a lot of respect for my Russian counterparts. They completely understood the relationship, they remembered how much money we provided when they needed it, they knew it was the right thing to do and they did it,” he said.
photo by James Blair
build their launch vehicles and spacecraft however they wanted. With the HTV, the Japanese had to meet our requirements for redundancy, accuracy, reliability once they entered a 2-kilometer sphere around the ISS,” he said. “That was a lot different than what had been done before, but when we did the commercial providers, that was the mindset we used. The cargo wasn’t really all that expensive, so that was the place to take the risk. The European ATV [Automated Transport Vehicle] docked with the Russian Segment. We were trying to get to a system similar to landing at an airport.” The new paradigm did not just involve NASA and its international partners, but also all of the contractors working on the space station, another effort in explanation, negotiation, and persuasion Suffredini had to master. “All of our contractors had to evolve with NASA on how to service our customers. The partners were in the position of seeing how we did it, then deciding what they wanted to do. So NASA took the first steps to encourage and support commercial users and, in the process, making necessary adjustments to do that in a safe way. The partners supported us along the way because we all shared the same environment, but they didn’t have to do it themselves right away. So that transition was a particularly challenging one, with the U.S. doing it first.” Throughout all of those challenges and his decade-long tenure, the Russian space agency was a close and invaluable partner with NASA, despite a few problems, Suffredini acknowledged, from the unexpected post-Columbia grounding of the shuttle fleet to its planned permanent retirement five years later. “They were critical. In the end, they were the backbone of the station until we got it assembled part way and were able to provide power; prior to that, from the early flights, they provided all the power. They built the first module, which was American-paid-for, Russian-built. They provided life support and the galley until we got ours up. After the Columbia accident, they stepped up and provided transport for our crews and cargo,” he noted. “Then we retired the shuttle without having an alternate crew [transport] method. The Russians could have taken advantage of that, but they did not. I was there when we started negotiating seats on the Soyuz when they knew the shuttle was going away. The initial cost was $50 million, which was for a vehicle that flew to the ISS, stayed docked
Kirk Shireman, NASA’s ISS program manager.
“So I have a positive outlook on all our partners, but especially the Russians, who are still keeping us viable today. We have a lot of political challenges right now, but when it gets down to the people we work with, they understand human spaceflight and the need for these countries to work together. It’s the only thing I know of that hasn’t been impacted by sanctions and other problems.” As to his own achievements while program manager for half the space station’s lifetime, Suffredini cited the successes they had in dealing with that laundry list of challenges – but shared the credit with all of the other nations involved, the contractors, and the NASA team, including the station crews. “We were met with challenges all along the way and our ability to work together was a crowning achievement of the time I was there. First, assembly of the station in a compressed period of time when the shuttle was basically retired out from under us. After the Columbia accident, it was decided the shuttle was too expensive and dangerous. We gave up four flights, although we did get two of those back. So second was the transition from shuttle to commercial cargo vehicles, what we did together with the partners. And
Kirk Shireman takes the controls of The Boeing Company’s mock-up CST-100 spacecraft at the company’s Houston Product Support Center. Helping Shireman inside the fully outfitted test version of the CST-100 is Tony Castilleja, a mechanical engineer working on the Boeing project.
ultimately the transition of the station from assembly to a user environment,” he said. “While we were assembling it, we fit research in where we could, but crew safety and safe assembly got priority and the research guys got whatever scraps were left. But when we completed assembly, that reversed. By the time I left, we had gone away from doing things because it was part of the system to a little more than 70 hours of crew time a week on research. To me, that was probably the most fundamental and hardest change we had to make, just getting the mindset of everyone who built the ISS and knew what it took to make it successful to the exact opposite. That was a huge change that took the final third of my time as PM.”
KIRK SHIREMAN – AUG. 5, 2015Current ISS Program Manager Kirk Shireman took over responsibility for the space
station in mid-2015, picking up many of the challenges his predecessor had worked on before his retirement. Shireman brought with him eight years as deputy PM on the ISS, followed by two years as deputy center director for JSC, which he said gave him an intimate knowledge of how the program, the center, and the agency operate. It was a combination he would find invaluable as he was tasked to complete the start of commercial manned flights to the ISS, promote greater attention to customer and international partner requirements, and smooth the path to full commercialization of the space station. “Of the two biggest problems at that time, the most urgent was evolving the culture from the assembly mentality, where NASA’s requirements were primary, to a more research lab culture, where the customers’ requirements were tops. We already had an initiative started
International Space Station I 20th Anniversary
– RISE [Revolutionize ISS for Science and Exploration] – and have worked on that my entire time here. That is a significant shift, not only in our mentality but also in our processes and procedures and how we deal with our customers, accelerating our processes to accommodate them. “The second, not as urgent when I took over but perhaps most important now, is integrating the commercial crew vehicles into the ISS. Once there were a lot of technical issues to address, but also some question about when they would fly. I’ve spent three years working very, very hard on that problem and had some pretty significant successes, but they still aren’t flying to the ISS [as of mid-2018]. That is still our biggest concern.” Commercial launch dates to the ISS must be viewed not as a single, fixed point, but as a distribution of probabilities, he continued. “There is some probability it will launch in April next year , but there also is a probability it will be some time later. So we have to be prepared for contingencies and making sure we can deal with that should they slip to the right,” Shireman said. “Another issue is how to foster this LEO [low-Earth orbit] economy, supporting NASA research, technology, and development, and this economic activity at the same time. Figuring out how to do that is a big deal. How do we transition what we’re doing so there is something that follows on after us with this transition?” Echoing the sentiments of his predecessors, Shireman has doubts about the 2024 target date to transfer the station to commercial operators when U.S. government funding is scheduled to end. “I don’t believe ISS can be handed over to a commercial entity with zero government funding and be a viable enterprise; there’s not enough income to support the costs. If it is not viable, we will de-orbit it. I think there will be a debate between Congress and the administration on how to transition, how to work with industry so there is a viable alternative to flying to ISS,” he added. “The challenge is what is intended by the administration and how do we make that transition. The desired end state is still in flux. And some are things not in the normal repertoire of NASA nor the government as a whole – helping create a market without dominating or dictating it. How do we grow it from being subsidized today to no subsidization – and do that without killing it?” It is not just a NASA problem, but one affecting all of the nations involved in the
ISS for the past two decades, as well as those interested in using its orbital laboratory facilities. “We’re working daily with the international partners about integrating these new commercial crew vehicles into their program plans because their astronauts will be flying on them, as well. In terms of transitioning the ISS, every partner is aware of the transition report NASA submitted to Congress and how we are proceeding,” Shireman said. “We have created a working group with representatives from NASA and all the international partners to work on what we as a partnership think the transition plan should be and stay consistent with the U.S. plan. We formed that in the past month and are working very well together to come to some agreement in the end, even if we don’t all agree on everything at the moment.” While he likely still has years to go as ISS PM, Shireman already has some achievements he can list. “I’m most proud of the mentality of our organization today, its focus on customer service and making their work as easy as possible for them, where in years past it was necessary to work to make NASA’s job easier, which sometimes made it harder for our customers. That means making their interface with us easier and working much faster to get their experiments onboard the ISS. It used to take two or three years to get something on orbit, but now it is possible to do that as quickly as six months. “Second, probably more subtle, is I was heavily involved in the deal to obtain Soyuz seats for us in calendar year 2019. It was unusual because we didn’t actually buy them from Roscosmos, but from Boeing – and, in the end, at a significant discount to earlier prices – when we really needed them. NASA has a relationship with Roscosmos, which has a principal contract with Energia, which manufactures Soyuz spacecraft. Each party was able to meet the needs of one or more of the other parties and all were happy in the end. It was a win-win-win result by including two more parties than just NASA and Roscosmos, where a simple head-to-head deal was not possible.” Even with the need for a “creative” deal on Soyuz seats, he joined the other American PMs in praising the efforts and support of the Russian space team throughout the ISS’ first two decades of operation. “Our relationship with the Russians today is as good as it’s ever been. We wouldn’t be here today if it weren’t for the Russians –
and they wouldn’t be here if it weren’t for us. That doesn’t mean we haven’t had our issues in the past, but we knew we could work through them and, when the chips were down, we both would drop everything and come to our partner’s aid. They came to our aid after the Columbia disaster and are still doing it. And when they’ve had issues along the way, we stepped up and helped them out,” he said. “The fact we’ve worked together for so long – as individuals – I don’t expect the relationship to deteriorate despite any political environment, nor the changes that are coming. As we do more commercial activities, so are the Russians, as are our international partners. So I have no doubt it will be a strong partnership in the future, including future activities. I think we have forged a path for space activities in the future that goes on not for decades, but for lifetimes.” Shireman credited his predecessors with making the ISS the success it has been, despite serious problems ranging from loss of the Space Shuttle to waning political support: “The reason we are successful today is because all my predecessors were able to be adaptable. When things weren’t working, we adapted and tried something different. You can always find things you could have done different, but the fact my predecessors were able to adapt and succeed, no matter what, brought us to where we are today. They did a phenomenal job and we wouldn’t be here today without them.”
CONCLUSION Each of NASA’s ISS program managers faced his own problems with keeping the space station on track, functioning and maintaining an unprecedented 100 percent safety record. Each also had his own goals, personal and for the station, but Shireman essentially summed them up succinctly: “What do I think the ISS means to the country, maybe to the planet? The wonderful thing about the ISS, not just while I’ve been PM but since its beginning, is it’s not about any one person or program manager, but about what we’re doing, leaving a mark for humanity, advancing not only the U.S. but the species. It’s a great thing to be part of that and I’m truly blessed to have been part of it since 1994. I really believe that isn’t just me but what anybody in the program would tell you. In 10 years, I hope nobody remembers me but everybody remembers the ISS.”