Human Activities in Space
China has a long-term and active project to develop a permanently crewed space station in LEO. The first phase of that project started in 2011 with the launch of an experimental space laboratory named Tiangong-1. The spacecraft, which is 10.4 meters (34.1 feet) long and weighs 8,500 kilograms (18,700 pounds), has 15 cubic meters (530 cubic feet) of habitable volume and is equipped with sleeping stations and exercise gear for visiting crews.
Bigelow Aerospace, an entrepreneurial company, is developing a second type of in-space platform: an inflatable habitat. Essentially a compressed module that expands once deployed in space, the habitat is designed to accommodate experiments and sustain human occupants in the future.
In addition to the ISS and Chinese efforts, there are other plans, of varying degrees of maturity, for other space stations. Bigelow Aerospace has been developing inflatable module technology that can be used for commercial space stations. Two prototype spacecraft, Genesis I and II, were launched in 2006 and 2007, respectively, to demonstrate the technology.
In addition to the ISS and Chinese space station, a private U.S. company and Russia are planning on launching their own space stations. Both projects are still in the planning stages, utilizing technology and experience derived from their predecessors.
This article is for members. Please sign up for a membership or login below. Username Password Remember Me Forgot Password
This article is for members. Please sign up for a membership or login below.
The first module of the ISS, the Russian Zarya module, was launched in late 1998 and the station became home to its first permanent crew in 2000. With the subsequent installation of major structural components and sections, the ISS reached its “core complete” configuration in 2011. New equipment, modules, and experimental platforms are regularly, a process expected to last until 2015.
The ISS is the largest spacecraft currently in orbit, measuring 109 meters (358 feet) long, with a mass of almost 419,500 kilograms (925,000 pounds). The station was developed and is operated by an international partnership of NASA, Roscosmos, ESA, JAXA, and the Canadian Space Agency (CSA).
In addition to satellites and spacecraft, a third major facet of in-space activity involves in-space platforms. In-space platforms are facilities or modules constructed or placed in space with the intention of creating a permanent or semi-permanent location and resource base for staging further space activities. The International Space Station is the only operational in-space platform.
While the International Space Station remained the cornerstone for human activities in space during 2017, companies such as…