The International Space Station is a habitable satellite built with the cooperation of 16 countries.
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- aluminum framework
The International Space Station, or ISS, is a habitable artificial satellite in low Earth orbit. It orbits at an altitude of about 360 km (223.7 mi) and completes one orbit every 92 minutes.
The ISS was built as part of an international cooperative effort. Its first module was the Russian Zarya, which initially served as the base of the Space Station with all the necessary functions. It was launched on November 20, 1998. Two weeks later, it was followed by the American Unity connecting module. The Zvezda Service module was attached to the first two modules in July 2000.
The ISS was further expanded by additional modules, the Integrated Truss Structure and related instruments. The American Destiny research module, launched in February 2001, was one of these additional modules.
The first crew members to arrive at the Space Station, on November 2, 2000, were an American astronaut and two Russian cosmonauts. Since then, a crew of at least 2 members ensures a permanent human presence in Space.
The habitable modules of the ISS are filled with air identical in composition and pressure to the Earth´s atmosphere. Oxygen is produced by instruments in the Zvezda and Tranquility modules, while nitrogen is transported to the ISS from Earth. The life support system is also responsible for the regulation of humidity as well as water and waste treatment. The two toilets on the ISS are also found in these two modules.
Since crew members would see 16 sunsets and sunrises every day, windows are darkened during the night hours of Coordinated Universal Time.
There is also a Fire Detection and Suppression system to protect the crew and equipment.
The basic task of astronauts on board is to carry out complex research during their 10-hour workdays. In addition to continuous measurements that produce an incredible amount of data, crew members carry out numerous experiments – occasionally they themselves are the subjects. This work is not only carried out inside the spacecraft; crew members also do maintenance and repair tasks as well as new, external experiments during space walks (officially referred to as extra-vehicular activity).
There are several types of space walks. We can distinguish between tethered and untethered spacewalks. On a tethered spacewalk, a safety tether keeps the astronaut attached to the spacecraft and to the life support system. On untethered spacewalks, the spacesuit itself or attached equipment provides the necessary oxygen and pressure, and a maneuvering unit is used.
External robot arms greatly simplify work done in outer space. The main robot arm of the ISS, called Canadarm 2, plays an important role both in the expansion and maintenance of the Space Station.
The energy supply for the ISS is provided by huge solar panels, which convert solar energy into electricity.
The ISS is positioned by gyroscopes and valves so that the solar panels can always be turned towards the Sun. Due to the orbital period, the charged batteries provide a continuous energy supply when it is dark.
The 16 countries participating in the program will maintain the International Space Station until at least 2020. It is one of the largest and most expensive spacecraft in the history of space exploration. At the end of its career, the ISS will be scheduled for a controlled de-orbit.
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