How does the International Space Station work? Full Explain

Manu Gupta

The International Space Station is the largest manmade structure in space. It was constructed in sections and subsequently sent into orbit to be put together. In this post, I want to give you a detailed look at the station.

We’re going to know at each module in the order that they were assembled. he nations concerned and the station’s future plans will be examined. So if you’re ready, let’s build a space station.

International Space Station

The International Space Station, or ISS, took many years to become a reality. In 1984, the United States announced a project called Space Station Freedom. There were lots of redesigns, and its funding was almost completely cut by US Congress.

International Space Station (ISS)

The International Space Station became its official name in 1993 following the participation of multiple additional nations. Five years later, construction begins in space. Mainly, it’s utilized for scientific research that can’t be done on Earth.

There are usually six astronauts on board the station. They generally switch out about every six months so that no one spends too much time in space.

A football field’s length of space is occupied by the International Space Station. It’s located just outside the Earth’s atmosphere. This is called Low Earth Orbit. It’s not very high up, considering that some satellites orbit way out here.

The ISS only takes about 92 minutes to orbit the earth. That’s about 28,000 kilometers per hour. Over time, the ISS will slowly lose altitude. If nothing was done, the station would eventually burn up as it reenters the Earth’s atmosphere.

The main countries now participating are the United States, Canada, Russia, Japan, and many other countries from the European and other Space Agency.

Parts of the ISS

Backbone of the station

The station’s Integrated Truss Structure acts as its structural backbone. It holds the solar arrays to generate electricity, and radiator panels, which remove heat from the station, and other equipment and science experiments are also attached.

Pressurized modules

This part down contains pressurized modules, which means the astronauts can live and work here without a space suit. All of the Russian modules make up the Russian Orbital Segment. The other side is called the United States Orbital Segment.

It includes Canadian, European, Japanese, and American modules. Various parts of the station, known as modules, were constructed in various parts of the world.

Each module was then launched into space by one of these three rockets, the American Space Shuttle, the Russian Proton Rocket and the Russian Soyuz Rocket. A new module has been added to the station by each of these lines.

Zarya Module

The first piece of the station is a Russian module called Zarya. It provides power from the solar arrays and also propulsion when there’s a need to move the station.

There are three docking ports in front and one in back. These are going to link the subsequent parts of the station.

Node 1 Module

The second module is American, and it’s called Unity, or Node 1. Six docking ports allow for the attachment of future modules. There’s a special piece here to connect between the different docking mechanisms. A Pressurized Mating Adapter (PMA) is the technical term for this.

Parts of ISS

PMA-1 & PMA-2 Module

Unity was launched with PMA-1 and PMA-2. This is the Zvezda service module. It offers life support systems and is considered the functional center of the Russian Orbital Segment. It also has three docking ports in front and one in back.

The Z1 Truss

This holds equipment for the station. It’s not part of the main truss, but it provided a temporary mounting place, as we’ll see here in a moment.

PMA-3 Module

PMA-3 was then added to the bottom side of Unity. It’s always good to have an extra one of these around. The P6 Truss was temporarily mounted to the top of the Z1 Truss. This includes the first solar array wings. This gives much-needed power to the developing station.

Radiator Panels

Radiator panels were also installed to help remove excess heat from the station. At this point, there was enough functionality that astronauts can start living aboard the station, instead of just temporary visits.

From November 2000 until the present, there has been a constant human presence on board the station. The Destiny module is also called the US Laboratory.

This is a site where a lot of scientific study happens. A little rearranging was necessary so that Destiny could be installed.

In March 2001 came the addition of the External Stowage Platform 1, or ESP-1. This was a place to store spare parts for the station.

Canada made a vital contribution with the Canadarm2. It’s a robotic arm that can help around the outside of the station. It’s usually controlled by an astronaut who’s on the inside of the station. Either end of the arm can be attached to one of these grapple fixtures that you’ll find in various modules.

Quest airlock

The Quest airlock allows the astronauts to safely step outside for a few hours to perform an EVA, also known as a spacewalk.

Pirs Module

It can be used as an airlock for spacewalks or as a docking port to allow visiting spacecraft to attach to the station.

Mobile remote servicer Base System

💡The Mobile remote servicer Base System, or MBS, was added next. This platform can move along the truss. It's especially beneficial when the Canadarm2 is mounted.

Integrated Truss Structure

Now we get to start building the integrated truss structure. If you remember from earlier, it is kind of like the
backbone of the station.

S0 Truss

Our first piece is the S0 Truss, and it gets attached to the top of the Destiny module.

ESP-2: ESP-2 was added to the station right next to the Quest airlock. The P3/P4 Truss segments with solar arrays and another radiator panel.

The tiny P5 Truss goes at the end here. To balance out the station, we’ll have to retract a few panels. The following year, the other sides of the truss were added as well.

ESP-3: ESP-3 and then the P6 Truss can be moved to its final resting place. It’s also time to deploy a couple extra radiator panels.

Harmony module

The Harmony module is also called Node 2. It will be attached to the forward end of Destiny. But first, we have to do some more rearranging. Harmony has six docking ports which will allow for further expansion of the station.

Columbus Module & Dextre

The Columbus module is a European laboratory. Now we get some more robotics also built by Canada. The space robot is called Dextre it can attach to the same grapple fixtures that are used by the Canadarm2. Dextre is the most useful when it’s attached to the end of the Canadarm2.

Kibo Module

The largest module is the Japanese Experiment Module, also known as Kibo. It came up to the station
in several pieces. It even has its own robotic arm.

S6 Truss

Finally, we have the S6 Truss, the last of the truss segments. Now we’re starting to look a little more like the space station. The solar arrays will be rotated so that they face towards the sun.

Japanese Exposed

The Japanese Experiment Module has one last addition. It’s called the Japanese Exposed Facility. This allows study to be conducted in the vacuum of space.

Poisk Module

The Russian module Poisk is very similar to Pirs. It was another spot for Russian spaceships to dock. This is the first ExPRESS Logistic Carrier or ELC-1. It is a place to keep hardware to assist the station work correctly.

ELC-2 was installed on top of the truss here. The Tranquility module, also known as Node 3, is added to the side of Unity. On the bottom side of Tranquility is a small room called the Cupola.

This has seven windows from which to see the view. Each window has a cover that can be closed when they are not in use. Then came another Russian module called Rassvet. This was utilized for storage and as another docking station.

The Leonardo module is used for the storage of supplies and waste. The trash will stack up here until it can be cleared from the station.

ELC-3 and -4 is a science experiment called the Alpha Magnetic Spectrometer. It’s used to study rare particles such as antimatter.

ISS Official NASA Site

The latest addition to the station is called the Beam Expandable Activity Module, or BEAM for shorter. It takes up a small amount of space during the launch and then inflates once attached to the station. BEAM is an experiment to determine if this type of technology can work.


The ISS only has funding through 2025. But hopefully, that will be extended. After that, we may see pieces of the station repurposed for other projects in space. I want to thank my supporters on for helping me make this post.

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I am a Technical Student with more than 3 years of experience and now I am an author and team member of Technolizex. And, I am also working in the field of Game Development, and Software Research.
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