Construction of the International Space Station began on 20 November 1998 when the American-funded, Russian-built Zarya module was launched into orbit around Earth. Sixteen countries are involved in the project.
The space station has a permanent crew of six astronauts whose primary mission is to carry out research in areas such as life, earth and space sciences. The US laboratory Destiny was added in 2001 followed by the European Columbus and Japanese Kibo labs in 2008.
The size of an American football field, the ISS has taken 13 years to complete at a cost of an estimated $100 billon.
Photo: The ISS as seen from the space shuttle Discovery, 7 March 2011 (NASA)
International crews live and work in space.
Mission control blasts music to keep the astronauts awake.
Bad weather delays the return of the Space Shuttle Atlantis after its mission to install the US Destiny laboratory on the International Space Station in February 2001. The lab is used for experiments in human life science, materials research and commercial applications. John McIntyre reports for BBC News.
Astronauts Ken Ham and Piers Sellers on their ISS memories.
NASA astronauts Ken Ham and Piers Sellers discuss their favourite memories of the International Space Station with Patrick Moore. In May 2010 they were part of a Space Shuttle Atlantis crew that went to the International Space Station to install equipment.
Microbes from Beer, Devon, survive 18 months in orbit.
Microbes from the seaside village of Beer in Devon survive 18 months in space stuck to the outside of the International Space Station. Pallab Ghosh reports for BBC News.
Peter Snow previews the International Space Station in 1998.
Peter Snow previews the International Space Station (ISS) in 1998 at the start of the project. This report quotes a predicted amount of time and money for the ISS's construction that proved to be highly optimistic. The ISS has cost around $100 billion and taken 13 years to build.
Astronauts talk about what you can see from the ISS.
Astronauts Commander Ken Ham and Mission Specialist Piers Sellers talk to Patrick Moore about the amazing things that can be seen from the International Space Station. In May 2010 they were part of a Space Shuttle Atlantis crew that went there to install equipment.
The International Space Station (ISS) is a space station, or a habitable artificial satellite in low Earth orbit. It is a modular structure whose first component was launched in 1998. Now the largest artificial body in orbit, it can often be seen at the appropriate time with the naked eye from Earth. The ISS consists of pressurised modules, external trusses, solar arrays and other components. ISS components have been launched by American Space Shuttles as well as Russian Proton and Soyuz rockets. In 1984 the ESA was invited to participate in Space Station Freedom. In 1993, after the USSR ended, the United States and Russia merged Mir-2 and Freedom together.
The ISS serves as a microgravity and space environment research laboratory in which crew members conduct experiments in biology, human biology, physics, astronomy, meteorology and other fields. The station is suited for the testing of spacecraft systems and equipment required for missions to the Moon and Mars.
Since the arrival of Expedition 1 on 2 November 2000, the station has been continuously occupied for 700113000000000000013 years and 7002165000000000000165 days, the longest continuous human presence in space. (In 2010, the station surpassed the previous record of almost 10 years (or 3,634 days) held by Mir.) The station is serviced by a variety of visiting spacecraft: Soyuz, Progress, the Automated Transfer Vehicle, the H-II Transfer Vehicle,Dragon, and Cygnus. It has been visited by astronauts and cosmonauts from 15 different nations.
After the U.S. Space Shuttle program ended in 2011, Soyuz rockets became the only provider of transport for astronauts at the International Space Station, while Dragon became the only provider of cargo-return-to-Earth services.
The ISS programme is a joint project among five participating space agencies: NASA, Roskosmos, JAXA, ESA, and CSA. The ownership and use of the space station is established by intergovernmental treaties and agreements. The station is divided into two sections, the Russian Orbital Segment (ROS) and the United States Orbital Segment (USOS), which is shared by many nations. The ISS maintains an orbit with an altitude of between 330 km (205 mi) and 435 km (270 mi) by means of reboost manoeuvres using the engines of the Zvezda module or visiting spacecraft. It completes 15.50 orbits per day. The ISS is funded until 2024, and may operate until 2028. The Russian Federal Space Agency, Roskosmos (RKA) has proposed using the ISS to commission modules for a new space station, called OPSEK, before the remainder of the ISS is deorbited. ISS is the ninth space station to be inhabited by crews, following the Soviet and later Russian Salyut, Almaz, and Mir stations, and Skylab from the US.