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International Space Station

International Space Station

What Is The Space Station?

  • It is basically a spacecraft which is habitable by humans who are crewmembers.
  • Countries such as the United States, Russia, and China have already developed their presence in space and the ISS (International Space Station) is the only and largest fully functioning human-made space station.

 About International Space Station          

  • The International Space Station, which launched its first piece in 1998, is a large spacecraft which orbits around the Earth and is home to the astronauts.
  • The ISS is currently the only active space station in the earth’s orbit.
  • The first crew on the space station arrived on November 2, 2000.
  • The space station is home to minimum of six astronauts, with two bathrooms, a gymnasium, and a big bay window.
  • It is a joint project between five participating space agencies -NASA (USA), Roscosmos (Russia), JAXA (Japan), ESA (Europe), and CSA (Canada).


  • The space station flies at an average altitude of 248 miles (400 kilometers) above Earth. It circles the globe every 90 minutes at a speed of about 17,500 mph (28,000 km/h). In one day, the station travels about the distance it would take to go from Earth to the moon and back.
  • The space station can rival the brilliant planet Venus in brightness and appears as a bright moving light across the night sky. It can be seen from Earth without the use of a telescope by night sky observers who know when and where to look. You can use this NASA app to find out when and where to spot the International Space Station’s location.


  • The ISS was originally intended to be a laboratory, observatory, and factory while providing transportation, maintenance, and a low Earth orbit staging base for possible future missions to the Moon, Mars, and asteroids. However, not all of the uses envisioned in the initial memorandum of understanding between NASA and Roscosmos have come to fruition.In the 2010 United States National Space Policy, the ISS was given additional roles of serving commercial, diplomatic, and educational purposes
  • Scientific research
    • The ISS provides a platform to conduct scientific research, with power, data, cooling, and crew available to support experiments.
    • Small uncrewed spacecraft can also provide platforms for experiments, especially those involving zero gravity and exposure to space, but space stations offer a long-term environment where studies can be performed potentially for decades, combined with ready access by human researchers.
  • Exploration
    • The ISS provides a location in the relative safety of low Earth orbit to test spacecraft systems that will be required for long-duration missions to the Moon and Mars. This provides experience in operations, maintenance as well as repair and replacement activities on-orbit, which will be essential skills in operating spacecraft farther from Earth, mission risks can be reduced and the capabilities of interplanetary spacecraft advanced.
  • Education and cultural outreach
    • The ISS crew provides opportunities for students on Earth by running student-developed experiments, making educational demonstrations, allowing for student participation in classroom versions of ISS experiments, and directly engaging students using radio, videolink and email. ESA offers a wide range of free teaching materials that can be downloaded for use in classrooms. In one lesson, students can navigate a 3-D model of the interior and exterior of the ISS, and face spontaneous challenges to solve in real time.

International cooperation

  • Involving five space programs and fifteen countries, the International Space Station is the most politically and legally complex space exploration programme in history.
  • The 1998 Space Station Intergovernmental Agreement sets forth the primary framework for international cooperation among the parties.
  • A series of subsequent agreements govern other aspects of the station, ranging from jurisdictional issues to a code of conduct among visiting astronauts.
  • Participating countries
    • Canada
    • Japan
    • Russia
    • United States
    • European Space Agency
    • Belgium
    • Denmark
    • France
    • Germany
    • Italy
    • Netherlands
    • Norway
    • Spain
    • Sweden
    • Switzerland
    • United Kingdom

SpaceX Crew Dragon

  • Recently, a spacecraft, Crew Dragon, built by SpaceX has successfully carried astronauts of National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) at the International Space Station.
  • SpaceX became the first private company to launch people (human spaceflight) into orbit, a feat achieved by the US, Russia & China.
  • Crew Dragon is a part of the Dragon 2, a class of reusable spacecraft developed and manufactured by American aerospace manufacturer SpaceX.
  • It is the fifth class of US spacecraft to take human beings into orbit, after the Mercury, Gemini, Apollo and Space Shuttle programs.
  • The rocket, named Falcon 9, which carried the spaceship into the orbit, was also built by SpaceX.
  • It is done under the Demo-2 Mission of NASA and SpaceX.

Significance of Private Participation

  • The landing by SpaceX flight is a culmination of more than decade-long efforts to enable private players to build and operate what essentially is a commercial taxi-service to space, and allow NASA to concentrate on deep space exploration, and work more vigorously towards taking humans to the moon, and Mars.
  • The United States now plans to return to the Moon in 2024 under the Artemis mission, establishing a launching pad to Mars by 2030.

India and Private Space Companies

  • While there are many private companies operating in the space sector in the United States, their contribution is not much significant in India.
  • Most of them collaborate with the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO), in building and fabricating the components that go into making rockets and satellites.
  • However, launch services, including the building of rockets or launch vehicles are still a monopoly of government space agency, i.e. ISRO.



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