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Science & Exploration

N° 28–1999: New dates set for assembly of the International Space Station

25 June 1999

New dates were announced for the remaining 43 missions required to build the International Space Station, when the heads of the space agencies representing the project's five international partners met at the European Space Agency's headquarters in Paris on 18 June. The partners are the United States, Russia, Japan, Canada and Europe, represented by ESA.

Two elements of the Station - the Russian-built Zarya module and the US's Unity module - are already in orbit. The third element, the Russian service module named Zvezda ("star" in Russian), will now be launched in November from Baikonur, Kazakhstan. It is currently undergoing testing at the Baikonur cosmodrome. "Zvezda" will serve as the crew living quarters over the next four years while the Station is being assembled.

The module will be equipped with the first piece of European hardware on the Station, an ESA-developed onboard computer that will act as Zvezda's "brain". Zvezda will also carry the antenna for the European Global Time System, the first experiment on the Station. It will broadcast experimental chronometric signals whose proposed uses range from automatic adjustment of clocks and watches between time zones to remote immobilisation of stolen vehicles.

In total, Europe will deliver hardware for 20 of the 46 missions needed to fully assemble the Station. All elements are already under development and are expected to be ready according to the previous assembly schedule.

The Columbus laboratory, Europe's main contribution to the Station, is now scheduled for launch on board the US Space Shuttle in February 2004, although the international partners are studying earlier launch dates. Work on the laboratory, however, is proceeding as planned, with the first system test well underway.

Another key European system, the European Robotic Arm, built for the Russian Science and Power Platform, is set to be launched in November 2001. The 10-metre arm will be used to assemble the Russian segment of the Station. It is currently undergoing flight qualification.

The first European, ESA astronaut Umberto Guidoni, is now scheduled to set foot on the Station in June 2000. His Space Shuttle crew will deliver up to 10 tons of equipment, experiments and supplies to the Station, transporting the material in a multipurpose logistics module developed by the Italian space agency ASI.

In the meantime, ESA is making preparations for the scientific and technical utilisation of the Station. It has selected the first experiments which will be attached to structures on the outside of the Station and exposed directly to space's unique environment. They range from a special infrared sensor to detect and monitor "hot spots" on the Earth, such as volcano eruptions and forest fires, to an atomic clock that will be 10 to 100 times more accurate than the most accurate clock on Earth, and even include experiments looking at life in outer space.

The new assembly sequence can be viewed at:

For further information on:
Europe and the International Space Station, see:
European Space Agency (ESA), see:

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