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  ISS: Interational versus multi-nation station

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Author Topic:   ISS: Interational versus multi-nation station

Posts: 1153
From: Ossian IN USA
Registered: Oct 2007

posted 07-27-2010 07:14 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for Delta7   Click Here to Email Delta7     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
I was curious about something I have noticed over time. Although it is called the International Space Station, it seems to me we never see cosmonauts doing work on the U.S. side, or vice-versa.

In other words, I have never seen a picture or description of "Cosmonaut operating an experiment in the Kibo/Columbus/Destiny module", or "Astronaut performs maintenance tasks in the Zvezda/Zarya/Poisk" module, at least since crew size increased to six.

It seems like cosmonauts spend the bulk of their work hours on the Russian side, and astronauts on the U.S. side. One would think tasks would be shared and spread around on a true "international" vessel.

It's almost as if what we actually have is two nations' conjoined space stations, in some ways. Is there some kind of agreement or protocol which dictates this, or is it a reflection of the practicality of training and familiarization with one country's own systems?

Robert Pearlman

Posts: 27328
From: Houston, TX
Registered: Nov 1999

posted 07-27-2010 07:37 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for Robert Pearlman   Click Here to Email Robert Pearlman     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
There are crossovers and there are joint-projects but the partners own their modules and control who works in their facilities.

To that end, there is a clear division of responsibilities between the U.S. and Russian segments, with crew time from the 'opposite' side being bartered for when needed by the other.

Even when U.S. or Russian crew members work in Columbus or Kibo, it is done with the permission of ESA or JAXA, respectively.

This multi-nation vs. international approach does have it benefits, as was recently cited by Jim Oberg writing for MSNBC:

Probably the biggest and happiest hardware-related surprise of the space station is how the patched-together design -- a Russian segment at one end, a swiftly expanding U.S. segment at the other -- has offered unexpectedly strong robustness. It may look like a classic engineering "kluge," and the interfaces may have been lashed together with inelegant rigging. But when push came to shove, boy, did it ever hold together. In the face of failure of systems from either country, the other country's equipment could and did stand in.

The design philosophy here is not to build one integrated vehicle comprising components from a dozen sources. It's to create a system from separately developed space vehicles, bundled and cross-connected but still vastly different in their engineering cultures. It has worked for the International Space Station, and it can work for future big projects.


Posts: 2488
From: Titusville, FL USA
Registered: Feb 2005

posted 07-29-2010 11:32 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for KSCartist   Click Here to Email KSCartist     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
In a related subject - Where are the crew sleep stations aboard station?

I remember being surprised to learn that John Phillips had one in Destiny during Expedition 11. (I assumed all of the two-person crews bunked in Zarya.)

Is there a NASA graphic that shows where they are?

Robert Pearlman

Posts: 27328
From: Houston, TX
Registered: Nov 1999

posted 07-29-2010 02:27 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for Robert Pearlman   Click Here to Email Robert Pearlman     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
I don't know of a graphic, but the crew quarters layout is at present:
  • Two cabins inside the Zvezda service module
  • Three cabins inside Harmony Node 2
  • One cabin in JAXA's Kibo Laboratory (to be moved into Harmony by October)
You can see the three cabins in Harmony in the background of this photo from STS-132.

You can see the cabin in Kibo in the foreground of this photo taken during the still on-going Expedition 24 on June 24.

You can see an example of the two Zvezda sleep stations in this photo, also from Expedition 24.

As an example of international cooperation, the fourth U.S. crew quarters, which was delivered by STS-131, was originally intended to be installed in Tranquility Node 3 and lined with a shower curtain to become a hygiene cabin for the crew. However, as there were three Russian crew members aboard and only two Russian crew quarters (a third is expected to arrive with a Russian lab in 2012), NASA loaned use of the sleeping station.

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