Human Activities in Space

Space Stations


2015 – International Space Station (ISS) – Snapshot

In 2015, the ISS was the only inhabited space station orbiting the Earth. By July 2015, an international cadre of 220 men and women had temporarily lived aboard the ISS as builders, scientists, and explorers since people first entered the station in November 2000. The crew aboard the ISS continued conducting research in a microgravity environment, as well as observing the impacts of long-term habitation in space on the human body during 2015.

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2014 – China Space Stations

Observers noted that China’s Tiangong-1, the only other space station besides the ISS currently in orbit, remained in place in 2014. China was expected to de-orbit Tiangong-1 two years after it launched in September 2011. No crews were launched to the uninhabited module during 2014.

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2014 – ISS

NASA spent $74.4 billion on the International Space Station (ISS) from the launch of the first Russian Zarya module in 1998 until the end of 2013. Nearly half of that amount was spent on space shuttle ISS construction and resupply flights.

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2014 – Annual Space Stations Overview

While satellites are essentially a platform upon which useful equipment can be mounted, space stations are a fundamentally different kind of asset. Space stations have been envisioned as permanent or semi-permanent bases where astronauts could take advantage of the microgravity and vacuum conditions to research new manufacturing techniques. In addition, space stations were foreseen as rest, refueling, and assembly points for vessels heading beyond Earth’s orbit. 

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2013 – China Space Stations

Another operational space station is the Chinese Tiangong-1. Launched in late 2011, Tiangong-1 is a prototype space station that is being used to develop technologies and techniques necessary for China to move on to a larger, permanently occupied space station in the future. Tiangong-1 was first occupied in June 2012.

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2013 – Bigelow Space Stations

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. 

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2013 – ISS

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. 

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Infrastructure: Space Infrastructure – TSR 2013

Infrastructure: Space Infrastructure - TSR 2013 examines global human spaceflight operations to include both the Chinese and US space stations, launch vehicles from all spacefaring nations, communications satellite constellations, PNT satellites,…

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2012 – China Space Stations

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.

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2012 – Bigelow Space Stations

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.

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