|Integrated Defense Systems|
Making history, inventing the future
BY AMANDA GRAY
This year promises to be the most challenging so far for ISS construction, as NASA and Boeing are focused on completing the core structure by February 2004. Five NASA Space Shuttle flights are scheduled to launch more than 80,000 pounds of components, supplies and experiments to the station in 2003. The Shuttle missions will launch four new sections of the ISS backbone, or truss. The last element, the Starboard-Six truss, will be launched in January 2004.
Plans also call for astronauts to conduct a record 24 space walks in 2003 for station assembly—18 of them while the Shuttle is docked to the ISS, and six while the Station is flying solo.
NASA Station Program Manager Bill Gerstenmaier views the year ahead as "the most complex so far in the history of the International Space Station and its construction in orbit. The station literally becomes a new spacecraft with each assembly mission, and that will be true next year with dramatic changes in the operations of its cooling and power systems as well as in its appearance." In all, it will take more than 40 missions by NASA's Space Shuttle and Russian launch vehicles, carrying 100 major components aloft, to complete space station assembly.
As the largest peacetime joint effort in history, the ISS is a truly global project, involving the scientific and technological resources of 16 countries and the efforts of more than 100,000 people throughout the world. "Think about it," said Mike Mott, Boeing Integrated Defense Systems vice president and general manager for NASA Systems. "On the first assembly mission, two pieces of flight hardware that had never been closer together than 10,000 miles on Earth are rendezvoused, docked and assembled 250 miles up in orbit. The light switch is turned on, and it works."
The successful delivery of the Boeingbuilt Port-One truss by Expedition Six in November 2002 extended the station's truss to nearly 133 feet. When completed in 2004, the truss will stretch to more than 350 feet (longer than a football field). In the last two years alone, the ISS has grown by more than 200,000 pounds. It has a habitable volume roughly equivalent to that of a three-bedroom house.
The amount of science on board the ISS has increased significantly from the initial four experiments Expedition One performed. The Expedition Five crew recently completed 25 experiments.
Notable recent experiments include the Renal Stone study on the risk of getting kidney stones during long voyages in space, and StelSys research on the human liver. Other stationbased research involved a soybean crop grown in space. Findings from this experiment will determine whether growing soybeans in the low-gravity setting of the ISS changes their chemical composition. The study could lead to the production of crops that support long-term human presence in space and pave the way for improving crops grown on Earth.
Approximately 30 experiments are planned onboard the ISS in 2003. Crewmembers will conduct biology, physics, chemistry, ecology, medicine and manufacturing experiments. They'll also study longterm effects of space flight on humans.
In the past 12 months, 33 people have visited or lived aboard the orbiting complex. A total of 112 visitors have been aboard the station since NASA launched it, including astronauts and cosmonauts from six countries.
Three Expedition crews will live aboard the station during 2003. NASA has scheduled another 31 people, representing at least five nationalities, to visit the ISS during the year. Those visitors will include educatorastronaut Barbara Morgan.
The first crewmembers docked with the station to begin its permanent occupancy on Nov. 2, 2000. Five three-person crews have lived aboard for durations ranging from four to more than six months. In its second year of occupancy, station astronauts and cosmonauts conducted 16 space walks for maintenance and assembly.
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