During 2007, the International Space Station (ISS) marked the seventh anniversary of continuous crewed operations, during which NASA and ISS partner scientists have gathered vital information on the station that will help with future long-duration missions of the new exploration program, as the station’s unique microgravity environment cannot be duplicated on Earth.
ISS goals are to establish a permanent habitable residence and laboratory for science and research, and to maintain and support a human crew at this facility. To those purposes, the ISS expands our experience in living and working in space, encourages and enables commercial development of space, and provides the capability for humans to perform unique long duration space-based research in cell and developmental biology, plant biology, human physiology, fluid physics, combustion science, materials science and fundamental physics. The ISS, approaching 70% completion, is already providing a unique platform for making observations of the Earth's surface and atmosphere, the sun, and other astronomical objects. The experience and results obtained from using the ISS will guide the future direction of human exploration of space, back to the Moon and on to Mars and beyond.
The station is the largest and most complex international scientific project in history. During the 16 Expedition missions so far, for over nine years on orbit (since Nov. 1998) and over seven years of continuous human presence (since Nov. 1, 2000), the international partnership has together assembled a research facility designed and produced in places areound the world that now resides some 250 miles (400 km) above the Earth.
The completed ISS by late-2010 will have a mass of 925,627 lbs. (420 metric tons), measuring 361 ft (110 m) end-to-end and 290 ft (88 m) long, with almost an acre of solar panels to provide up to 110 kilowatts power to six state-of-the-art laboratories. Led by the United States, the ISS draws upon the scientific and technological resources of 16 nations: Canada, Japan, Russia, 11 nations of the European Space Agency (ESA), and Brazil. Together, by 2010 they will have managed over 80 assembly & logistics missions (including 23 space shuttle missions by end-2007 through STS-120), with crew rotations and cargo transfer flights on five different launch vehicles that will have included over 50 crew members from around the globe. By end-2007, over 595 hours of assembly, outfitting & maintenance activity have been performed during extravehicular activities (EVAs) outside the ISS.
While the ISS continues to meet NASA’s mission objective to prepare for the next steps in human space exploration, it will also offer extraordinary opportunities for advancing science and technology to other U.S. government agencies, non-profit research foundations, and private firms. In October 2007, the National Institutes of Health (NIH) signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) with NASA, with the intent to issue a formal research announcement in 2008 for use of the ISS in the post-assembly period. The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Agricultural Research Service is evaluating a similar arrangement and may soon enter into an MOU for plant- and animal-related research. In the private sector, two Space Act Agreements are under development for pursuing proprietary research in biotechnologies, and another agreement is pending with the University of Colorado’s Bioserve Center for ISS-based research.
Early in 2003, progress in ISS assembly was brought to a halt by the standdown of the space shuttles after the loss of the space shuttle Columbia. As an immediate consequence of the unavoidable reduction in resupply mission to the station, which now could only be supported by Russian uncrewed automated Progress cargo ships, station crew size was reduced from three to a two-person “caretaker” crew per expedition (also known as Increment), except for brief 10-day stays by visiting cosmonaut/researchers or commercial “tourists” arriving and departing in the third seat of Soyuz spacecraft. During 2006, as ISS entered its seventh year of operations as a staffed facility, three-person operation of the station was resumed with mission STS-121/Discovery, the first shuttle flight test of new inspection and protection techniques and systems, which also delivered the first European long-duration crewmember, Germany’s Thomas Reiter, to join the Expedition 13 crew of Russian Commander (CDR) Pavel Vinogradov and U.S. Flight Engineer (FE) Jeff Williams, who had arrived in March 2006 on Soyuz TMA-8/12S.
During 2007, there were nine flights to the ISS, including two crewed Soyuz missions and four Progress cargo flights. NASA launched three successful space shuttle missions in June, August and October to deliver pieces of the ISS, allowing it to grow in size, volume and power production in 2007. The electricity generated by the station and used aboard the outpost more than doubled this year. The station's six solar panels now extended to more than half an acre of surface area. NASA astronauts and Russian cosmonauts safely conducted 23 spacewalks devoted to building and maintaining the station in 2007. Russian launches to the ISS in 2007 consisted of two crewed Soyuz spacecraft and four uncrewed Progress cargo ships.
Over 2007, there have been 30 crew members aboard ISS from eight countries, viz., the U.S., Russia, Canada, Germany, Italy, Japan, France, and Malaysia. After Expedition 15 began in April 2007 with Russian CDR Fyodor Yurchikhin, Russian FE Oleg Kotov and U.S. FE Sunita Williams, who was later replaced by Clayton Anderson, Expedition 16 started in October with U.S. CDR Peggy A. Whitson, Russian FE Yuri Malenchenko, Spaceflight Participant (SFP) Sheikh Muszaphar Shukor from Malaysia, and U.S. FE Daniel M. Tani who replaced Anderson.
By end-2007, 68 carriers had been launched to the ISS altogether: 23 shuttles, two heavy Protons (FGB “Zarya”, SM ”Zvezda”), and 43 Soyuz rockets (27 uncrewed Progress cargo ships, the DC-1 docking module, and 15 crewed Soyuz spaceships).
Designated ISS-24P, the first of four uncrewed cargo ships to the ISS in 2007 lifted off on a Soyuz-U rocket at the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan on January 17 (9:12pm EST) and docked at the station on January 19 (9:59pm). The drone carried ~2400 kg of cargo for the ISS crews, comprising 1720 lbs (780 kg) of propellant for the Russian thrusters, 110 lbs (50 kg) of oxygen and almost 3300 lbs (1497 kg) of spare parts, experiment hardware and life support components. Delivered were 45 containers of Russian food portions and 25 containers of US food.
Soyuz TMA-10/ISS-14S (April 7 – October 21) lifted off at Baikonur on a Soyuz-FG at 1:31pm EDT, carrying Russian Expedition 15 crewmembers Dr. Fyodor Nikolayevich Yurchikhin (CDR) and Dr. Oleg Valeriavich Kotov (FE-1) plus American “taxi cosmonaut” Dr. Charles Simonyi, the fifth ”tourist”/SFP to visit the space station, flying under contract with Space Adventures Ltd. and the Russian Federal Space Agency, after another flawless countdown of the Soyuz-FG. The ninth ISS crew rotation flight by a Soyuz, it arrived at the station on 4/9, docking smoothly at the FGB nadir port at 3:10pm EDT. Hatch opening and crew transfer were nominal. Twelve days later (4/21), the previous CRV, Soyuz TMA-9/13S, undocked from the SM aft port at 5:10am EDT for a safe landing in Kazakhstan at 8:31am with Mikhail Tyurin, Michael Lopez-Alegria and Charles Simonyi.
Designated ISS-25P, the second of four uncrewed cargo ships to the ISS in 2007 lifted off on a Soyuz-U rocket at Baikonur on May 11 (11:26pm EDT), docking at the station on 5/15 (1:10am). The resupply ship delivered 5125 lbs (2325 kg) of cargo for the station crews, comprising 1058 lbs (480 kg) of propellant for the Russian thrusters, 926 lbs (420 kg) fresh water, 99 lbs (45 kg) of oxygen and 3042 lbs (1380 kg) of spare parts, repair gear, life support and science experiment hardware. Delivery included 12 food containers.
ISS-26P was the next uncrewed cargo ship, launched in Baikonur on a Soyuz-U on August 2 (1:33pm EDT) and arriving at the station on 8/5 (2:40pm). The 26P drone delivered about 2.5 tons of cargo, including propellants for the Russian thrusters, fresh water, oxygen, food, spare parts, repair gear, life support and science experiment hardware.
Soyuz TMA-11/ISS-15S (October 10, 2007– April 19, 2008), was launched in Kazakhstan at 9:22am EDT. The tenth crew rotation flight by a Soyuz, it carried Expedition 16 crewmembers Dr. Peggy Whitson (CDR) from the U.S. and Yuri Ivanovich Malenchenko (FE-1) from Russia plus Malaysian Sheik Muszaphar Shukor Al Masrie, the 13th Visiting Crewmember (VC) to visit the space station, flying under a Russia/Malaysia government-to-government offset agreement. TMA-11 docked to the ISS on 10/12 at 10:50am, replacing the previous CRV, Soyuz TMA-10/14S, which undocked on 10/21 at 3:14am with Expedition 15 crewmembers Fyodor Yurchikhin and Oleg Kotov (Russia’s Cosmonaut No. 100), plus the Malaysian SFP Muszaphar Shukor. Touchdown occurred ~340 km short (west) of the intended site near Arkalykh. After arrival of the recovery forces, the crew was reported to be out of the spacecraft at about 6:55am. They were flown to Kustanai, Kazakhstan, with Star City near Moscow their next stop later in the day. The trajectory undershoot of the returning Soyuz Descent Module was due to a switch of the on-board computer to the (secondary) Ballistic Descent Mode (BS). Mission length for Yurchikhin & Kotov: 196d 17h 5m; for SFP Shukor: 10d 21h 14m.
ISS-27P, the fourth automated logistics transport in 2007, lifted off on its Soyuz-U on December 23 (2:12am EDT), docking at the ISS on 12/26 (3:14am) with about 2.5 tons of cargo for the ISS crews, including propellants for the Russian thrusters, fresh water, oxygen, food, spare parts, repair gear, life support and science experiment hardware.