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Science & Exploration

N° 50–1998: First element of International Space Station to be launched on 20 November

18 November 1998

The first component of the International Space Station is scheduled to be launched atop a Russian Proton launcher from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan at 11:40 local time (07:40 Central European Time) on Friday 20 November, kicking off a new era in the human exploration of space.

The Space Station will provide a permanent workplace in orbit for men and women of many different nationalities. It will be assembled element by element over the next five years and, when completed in 2004, the complex will be the largest ever structure in space, stretching over 100 metres and sprawling across an area the size of a football field.

The first element in orbit, the Russian-built, US-owned control module named Zarya (a Russian word meaning "daybreak"), will provide the initial propulsion and power for the future Space Station. Two weeks later, on 3 December, the second element will be launched. Carried into orbit aboard the Space Shuttle Endeavour, the Unity module will be attached to Zarya to begin the Space Station's orbital assembly.

The European Space Agency is one of five partners in this international endeavour, together with the United States, Russia, Japan and Canada. ESA is contributing two major elements - the Columbus laboratory and an Automated Transfer Vehicle (ATV). The first is a multi-purpose scientific and technological laboratory, to be added to the Space Station in the year 2002/2003, and the second is a transport vessel to be launched by Europe's Ariane 5 to carry supplies to the Space Station.

Europe is also supplying scientific and technical equipment to NASA and the Russian Space Agency (RKA), and will take part in 19 of the 45 flights planned during the five-year assembly phase.

The first European element, a data management system that will act as the "brain" of the Russian Service Module, will be launched on the fourth assembly flight early next summer. Ten of ESA's 14 member states are participating in the Space Station : Belgium, Denmark, France, Germany, Italy, the Netherlands, Norway, Spain, Sweden and Switzerland.

For further information and daily status reports on the International Space Station, see ESA's Space Station web page:

Note to editors: ESA will provide live images of the launch from Baikonur, hosted by Kate Bellamy and ESA astronaut Thomas Reiter and complemented by status reports from the Russian mission control centre TsUP near Moscow, on 20 November. The feed will be transmitted in analog PAL mode. Broadcasters are welcome to use the feed:

Transponder up: 06:45 CET Start of programme: 07:00 CET Scheduled lift-off: 07:40 CET End of programme: 08:15 CET Transponder down: 08:30 CET
Satellite: Eutelsat 2F2 Position : 10 degrees EAST Transponder: XP25 Polarisation: Vertical Frequency: 10,9716 GHz Sound subcarrier: 6,6 MHz (English)

For further information, please contact : ESA Public Relations Division Tel: +33(0) Fax:+33(0)