|Assembling a World-Class
Launches of Early Station Components and the First Crew
To assemble and maintain the International Space Station, space-walking astronauts will work in partnership with a new generation of space robotics. The Space Shuttle's mechanical arm and a new space station arm will operate both as "space cranes" to maneuver large modules and components and as space "cherry pickers" to maneuver astronauts to work areas.
The first station component to be launched, the Zarya control module, a 20-ton, 43-foot long module that provides propulsion, command and control systems for the station's first months in orbit, will be launched in November 1998. Later, Zarya becomes little more than a station passageway, docking port and fuel tank. Built for NASA by the Russians and owned by the U.S., it is on schedule to be lifted into orbit by a Russian Proton Rocket from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakstan.
Soon after, the first U.S. pressurized module, a connecting module named Unity, is to be launched aboard the Space Shuttle Endeavour in December 1998. Astronauts will conduct three space walks to connect power and data transmission cables among Zarya, Unity and other equipment. Unity provides six attachments ports, one on each of its sides, to which all future U.S. modules will join. This will be the first of about 36 planned Space Shuttle flights to assemble the station.
The Service Module, the crew's living quarters, is scheduled to be carried to the station in July 1999 on a Russian Proton Rocket from Baikonur. The Service Module is the first fully Russian station contribution and the core of the Russian station segment. It provides life support, navigation, propulsion, communications and other functions for the early station.
Following missions that will deliver cargo, gyroscopes and solar power panels to the station, the first International Space Station crew, to be launched in January 2000, will travel to the station aboard a Russian Soyuz spacecraft from Baikonur. The three-person crew will be commanded by U.S. Astronaut Bill Shepherd and will include two Russian cosmonauts, Soyuz Commander Yuri Gidzenko and Flight Engineer Sergei Krikalev. They will live aboard the station for about five months.