Picture of the International Space Station in orbit.

International Space Station

The International Space Station’s role as a scientific laboratory and test bed for deep-space technology is crucial to humanity’s ability to improve life on Earth while pursuing opportunities in space.

Laboratory, Proving Ground, Home

The International Space Station (ISS) is a permanently crewed on-orbit laboratory that enables scientific research supporting innovation on Earth and future deep space exploration. From design to launch, 15 countries collaborated to assemble the world's only permanently crewed orbital facility, which can support up to seven astronauts and 300 to 400 experiments per crew increment, across an array of disciplines. The ISS is the cornerstone of human activity in low Earth orbit, a cooperative global effort to expand our knowledge and improve life on Earth while testing technology that will build a LEO economy and extend our reach to the moon, Mars and beyond.

Boeing officially turned over the U.S. on-orbit segment of the ISS to NASA in 2010 and continues to provide key engineering support services and continual capability enhancements, as well as processing for laboratory experiment racks. Due to its modular systems and the limited degradation of the space environment, technical assessments have shown the station could safely operate beyond 2030 if NASA and its international partners choose to do so.

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Boeing engineer Aya Abushmeis works on the ISS MIMIC model as the team adds more elements to the model reflecting recent new solar arrays added to the real ISS. (Boeing/Steven Siceloff photo)

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Boeing’s Ryan Demny of the International Space Station; Amy Comeau from the Commercial Crew Program, and Alexsandra Olaya-Garcia and Lauren O’Doherty from the Space Launch System program recently received NASA’s Space Flight Awareness Trailblazer Award.

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Commercial Opportunities in Low Earth Orbit

ISS is hitting its stride as an incubator and business model in the commercial space ecosystem. Among the entities benefiting from ISS access is the Boeing-founded Genes in Space, a STEM contest that challenges students to design DNA analysis experiments for the ISS National Lab (managed by the Center for the Advancement of Science in Space, or CASIS). Winners’ experiments are launched to ISS to be performed by astronauts, with published results.

Genes in Space 2019 winners Finsam Samson and Yujie Wang designed an experiment to analyze the impact of microgravity on gene expression. Their work may enable medical interventions for astronauts while in space, and therapies for people with stress-related health conditions on Earth.

Boeing also partners with the ISS U.S. National Lab on the MassChallenge startup accelerator’s “Technology in Space” competition. Winning companies receive funding and the opportunity to have their research conducted on the station so they can advance them to market. Qlibrium of Boston had its patch-sized, wearable drug-delivery pump launched to ISS in 2020. The technology holds promise for improved medicine delivery on Earth and on voyages through deep space.

Expanding science and technology development in low Earth orbit means expanding access. Boeing collaborated with Nanoracks on the payload services provider’s Bishop Airlock on ISS. It will open the station to more commercial users and research.

Commercial Opportunities in Low Earth Orbit
Commercial Opportunities in Low Earth Orbit

Benefits for Deep Space Exploration

The United States’ goal of sustained human exploration of deep space relies on advanced technologies such as surface habitats.

Boeing’s deep-space surface habitat concept builds on the company’s experience from designing, building and operating the ISS for more than 20 years, including recent advances such as superefficient lithium-ion batteries and roll-out solar arrays. Boeing is working on a habitation module and an airlock module that doubles as additional living/work space.

The ISS also gives researchers a unique environment to investigate the physiological and psychological effects of long-duration spaceflight, and to test deep-space technologies, in preparation for crewed missions to the Moon and Mars.

The International Space Station has inspired sustainability efforts here on Earth. From the station's smaller, more efficient solar arrays to its global humanitarian applications, see how discoveries on orbit help us innovate for a better tomorrow

Sustainability Is Built In

Cloudy with a chance of climate change:

Sensors on the station provide important data for forecasting global changes in climate and weather. High-resolution laser ranging and satellite imagery of our planet examine the impacts of changes to forests and other ecosystems, land usage, and water quality.

Recycling our most precious resource:

There is an entire closed-loop system onboard the ISS dedicated to filtering out impurities and contaminants in water. This technology has been adapted to aid remote locations around the world that would not otherwise have access to clean drinking water.

Investigations in microgravity:

Many experiments conducted on the orbital lab have important implications for environmental sustainability on Earth. These include investigations of aeroponic farming (using mist to water crops), carbon scrubbing, sustainable cotton growth, and water and energy conservation.

Together we do more:

The ISS is one of the most ambitious international collaborations ever attempted, serving as a model for what humanity can accomplish when diverse teams work together. Additionally, remote sensing data from the station has humanitarian applications, including disaster response and search-and-rescue missions.

Class is in session:

The ISS has become an accessible research platform through real-time connectivity to on-orbit experiments and crew activities. Through programs such as Genes in Space, Boeing is utilizing ISS to educate and inspire future generations to get involved in space exploration and STEM.

Power moves:

A suite of solar arrays — including six new Boeing-built arrays set to be installed this year —serve as the station’s primary power source, converting sunlight into energy. During periods of orbital darkness, Boeing-built energy efficient, lithium-ion batteries, which offer twice the power of their predecessor, ensure that the station is never without power.

This NASA fly-through of the International Space Station uses a fisheye lens for extreme focus and depth of field. It’s narrated by Boeing Mission Evaluation Room Manager Jennifer Hammond.


ISS Video Tour




International Space Station Technical Specifications

Length (pressurized section) 167 ft (51 m) Operating Altitude 220 nmi (407 km) average
Total Length 192 ft (58.5 m) Inclination 51.6 degrees to the Equator
Total Height 100 ft (30.5 m) Atmosphere Inside 14.7 psi (101.36 kilopascals)
Solar Array Wingspan 239 ft (72.8 m) Pressurized Volume 34,700 cu ft (habitable volume of
14,400 cu ft)
Integrated Truss Length 357 ft (109 m) Computers to Control Station 52
Mass (Weight) 919,964 lbs Power Generation 120 kw (current) - 215 kw (with new solar arrays installed)
Current Position Spot the Station

The Nations of the International Space Station

NASA selected Boeing as prime contractor for the International Space Station on Aug. 17, 1993, and the original cost-plus-award-fee contract began on Jan. 13, 1995. Boeing is responsible for maintaining the station at peak performance levels so the full value of the unique research laboratory is available to NASA, its international partners, other U.S. government agencies and private companies.

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