The International Space Station and its Operations

Dr Andreas Mogensen, Astronaut for the European Space Agency


The International Space Station (ISS) is the largest and most complex structure ever to be assembled and flown in space. The first module of the ISS was launched in November 1998 and construction is scheduled to be finished in 2011. Since November 2000, the ISS has been permanently inhabited by an international crew of astronauts, ranging from as few as two astronauts to as many as 13 astronauts, when the US Space Shuttle is visiting. The ISS relies on a fleet of spacecrafts to support its operations, including the US Space Shuttle, the Russian Soyuz crew vehicle, the Russian Progress cargo vehicle, the European ATV cargo vehicle, and the Japanese HTV cargo vehicle. These spacecrafts use an array of different technologies to dock with the ISS, including manual rendezvous and docking, autonomous rendezvous and docking, and capture and berthing using the space station robotic arm. ISS operations are assisted by several remote manipulator systems, including the 17 meter long space station robotic arm, the Japanese Experiment Module robotic arm, and the soon to be launched European robotic arm. This complex system of technologies and spacecrafts is necessary in order to support the scientific experiments and payloads that are carried both onboard and mounted on the outside of the US laboratory module Destiny, the European laboratory Columbus, the Japanese laboratory Kibo, and the soon to be launched Russian laboratory module MLM.

Astronauts who fly to the ISS are trained in a multitude of tasks. In addition to operating the scientific payloads and performing scientific experiments, astronauts are trained in the docking and berthing procedures used by visiting vehicles, and in the operational procedures used for manipulating the robotic arms and for conducting extra-vehicular activities (EVA’s). Personal astronaut training experiences of the presenter will be used, as far as possible, to introduce the complex world of ISS operations and the European contributions to the ISS.