Completing the station

The loss of Columbia in 2003 threw the construction of the ISS into chaos and its entire future into doubt. But eventually the collaborating space agencies agreed a new schedule to complete the station.

In the immediate aftermath of the Columbia disaster, the fate of the ISS was a pressing issue. The crew of Expedition 6, in orbit since November 2002, were supposed to be replaced during a visit from

Atlantis in March 2003, but it was clear that the

Shuttle would be grounded for a long time. There was some discussion of abandoning the station until the Shuttle flew again, but Russia stepped into the breach, suggesting that the Soyuz

TM should take over the Shuttle's taxi role. However, the difficulty of keeping the station fully supplied 1J ^

using only Progress M ferries meant "

that the station's crew would be temporarily reduced to just two. ^f

This had the effect of reducing the * f amount of science that could be » I >j|

conducted onboard and increased ^mi

the grumbling of those who saw OAfU TUC

dALK IU IHt the ISS as an expensive drain on the shuttle astrono budget for Earth-based research. Tanner climbs <

Only with the Shuttle's return to the durin9 instal'at segment ana s

ISS in July 2006 did the three-person September 20C expeditions resume.

on the penultimate Shuttle flight), while Japan's JEM laboratory requires three launches to put all its components into orbit. In addition, at least one Russian laboratory module will be added, though this will be launched by a Proton rocket.


Shuttle astronaut Joseph R. Tanner climbs along the ISS truss during installation of a new truss segment and solar arrays in September 2006.

Finding a way

The loss of Columbia finally led to a recognition of inherent dangers in the Shuttle's design, and in 2004 President George W. Bush outlined a new space policy for the future of NASA (see p.302). With the eventual loss of another Shuttle now seen as almost inevitable, the vehicle would be retired as soon as possible, and stringent safety precautions would be in place throughout its remaining missions. The challenge now was to complete the ISS in as few missions as possible, but after some haggling between the various agencies, a revised launch schedule calling for 17 more Shuttle flights was agreed in March 2006.

While several of the remaining Shuttle missions will involve the transportation and fitting of truss segments and solar arrays, there are also important pressurized modules to be added. Nodes 2 and 3, ESA's Columbus laboratory module, and the Cupola observation port all require Shuttle launches (though the Cupola and Node 3 should be launched together

Life after the Shuttle

- By the time the Shuttle departs

* ^jfa^ for the 'ast time/ around 2010, ? the ISS should at last be fully ■JWV ■ s * operational, with a permanent ■JP /« crew of six onboard. A variety of Tf « vehicles, both new and familiar, V >,' will fulfil the Shuttle's various roles. . . At least two Soyuz spacecraft will w

''V'" sta^ Permanent'y docked for use as i^/V ♦ * lifeboats, while others come and go bringing visitors and replacement

^tf TJ crews. Russian Progress ferries,

ESA's Automated Transfer Vehicle, iseph R. Japan's H-ll Transfer Vehicle

7 the ISS truss will carry supplies and experiments if a new truss tQ an(j frQm the station By the arrays in , , , mid-2010s, these spacecraft will be supplemented with visits from

NASA's new Orion spacecraft, and perhaps others - proposals include a new Russian spaceplane, a European vehicle based on Soyuz, and even spacecraft developed by NASA specifically for commercial launches.





An artist's impression shows a Shuttle docked to the completed station. With the Space Shuttle due to go out of service as soon as the ISS is completed, this configuration may only be seen once, during the final mission of Discovery - currently scheduled for April 2010.



A talented pilot and engineer, Sergei Konstantinovich Krikalev (b.1958) joined NPO Energia (the former OKB-1) in 1981. At first he worked on engineering problems such as the Salyut 7 rescue mission (see p.182), but in 1985 he was selected for cosmonaut training. Assigned to his first Mir mission in 1988, he flew on Soyuz TM-7 and remained in orbit for 151 days. He flew again on Soyuz TM-12 in May 1991 and was in orbit when the Soviet Union ceased to exist in December, eventually returning to Earth after ten months. In the 1990s he flew on the STS-60 and STS-88 Space Shuttle missions, before serving on the crew of ISS Expedition 1. His command of Expedition 11, during which station construction resumed, brought his total time in space to a record 804 days.

14 January 2004

President George W. Bush announces the Vision for Space Exploration, effectively signalling the end of the Space Shuttle programme.

July 2005

Unexpected problems during Discovery's first return to flight mission leave the Shuttle grounded for another year. However, Discovery does manage to deliver supplies to the station.

2 March 2006

Heads of the US, Russian, European, Canadian, and Japanese space agencies meet at Kennedy Space Center to approve a new assembly sequence that will see the ISS completed within four years.

July 2006

Discovery's second return to flight mission delivers more supplies and components to the station and brings the crew back up to three.

September 2006

Atlantis docks with the ISS, bringing with it a major new section of the truss and solar arrays.

December 2006

Discovery adds further truss components and brings a new crewmember to the station.

13 November 2006

Blue Origin's prototype SSTO vehicle makes its


The X-43C was a NASA-led attempt of the early 2000s to develop a hypersonic aircraft powered by a scramjet (an advanced ramjet) and capable of reaching 8,000kph (5,000mph), as a prototype for future spaceplane projects.


Eugen Sanger's Second World War design for a rail-launched German orbital bomber, called Amerika, is still an inspiration for many aerospaceplane concepts today.

4 February 1986

During his State of the Union address, President Reagan proposes a hypersonic "Orient Express" aerospaceplane called the NASP.

5 February 1986

The British government announces development of HOTOL.

25 July 1988

HOTOL is scrapped when the UK government withdraws funding.

May 1993

The NASP project is cancelled.

18 August 1993

The DC-X Delta Clipper SSTO vehicle makes its first test flight.

31 July 1996

A fire on the launch pad destroys the DC-X prototype. NASA decides not to rebuild and cancels the project.

November 1999

A prototype fuel tank for the X-33 fails during testing, leading NASA to cancel the project due to concerns about its viability.

13 November 2006

Blue Origin's prototype SSTO vehicle makes its

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