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.
An observation deck is added to the space station.
BBC News reports on the February 2010 Space Shuttle Endeavour mission to deliver some of the last components to the International Space Station. The shuttle's delivery included a seven-windowed cupola to be used as a control room for the station's robotic arm. Pallab Ghosh reports.
Astronauts link the first two sections of the ISS.
BBC News reports on the joining of the first two sections of the International Space Station (ISS) in December 1998. The US-funded, Russian-built Zayra Module provided the space station's initial propulsion and power. The ISS has actually taken 13 years to near completion - the cost running to an estimated $100 billion. James Wilkinson reports.
With a damaged belly, the shuttle returns from the ISS.
BBC News reports on the Space Shuttle Endeavour's August 2007 return to Earth. The shuttle's crew had completed a mission to attach equipment to the International Space Station despite damage to the spacecraft's belly that occurred on take off. Richard Lister reports.
Astronauts practise space station construction underwater.
Dr Chris Lintott reports from the Neutral Buoyancy Laboratory at NASA Johnson Space Center where astronauts practise construction of the International Space Station underwater.
Astronaut Piers Sellers talks to Patrick Moore about life orbiting Earth.
British-born NASA astronaut Piers Sellers talks to Patrick Moore about life on the International Space Station. He discusses the astronauts' daily routine, living conditions and what food tastes like in space.
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 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.
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. The ISS maintains an orbit with an altitude of between 330 and 435 km (205 and 270 mi) by means of reboost manoeuvres using the engines of the Zvezda module or visiting spacecraft. It completes 15.54 orbits per day.
ISS is the ninth space station to be inhabited by crews, following the Soviet and later Russian Salyut, Almaz, and Mir stations as well as Skylab from the US. The station has been continuously occupied for14 years and 176 days since the arrival of Expedition 1 on 2 November 2000. This is the longest continuous human presence in space, having surpassed the previous record of 9 years and 357 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 US Space Shuttle program ended in 2011, Soyuz rockets became the only provider of transport for astronauts at the International Space Station, and Dragon became the only provider of bulk cargo-return-to-Earth services (downmass capability of Soyuz capsules is very limited).
The ISS programme is a joint project among five participating space agencies: NASA, Roscosmos, 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. As of January 2014[update], the American portion of ISS was funded until 2024. Roskosmos has endorsed the continued operation of ISS through 2024, but have proposed using elements of the Russian Orbital Segment to construct a new Russian space station called OPSEK.
On March 28, 2015, Russian sources announced that Roscosmos and NASA had agreed to collaborate on the development of a replacement for the current ISS. NASA later issued a guarded statement expressing thanks for Russia's interest in future cooperation in space exploration, but fell short of confirming the Russian announcement.