Here’s a look at the International Space Station (ISS), a spacecraft built by a partnership of 16 nations: United States, Canada, Japan, Russia, Brazil, Belgium, Denmark, France, Germany, Italy, the Netherlands, Norway, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland and the United Kingdom.
The ISS includes three main modules connected by nodes: the US Laboratory Module Destiny, the European Research Laboratory Columbus, and the Japanese Experiment Module Kibo (Hope). Each was launched separately and connected in space by astronauts.
Mass: 925,335 pounds (419,725 kilograms)
Habitable Volume: 13,696 cubic feet (388 cubic meters)
Solar Array Length: 115 feet (35 meters)
The ISS orbits Earth 16 times a day.
As of November 2020, 232 spacewalks have been conducted for station assembly and maintenance.
November 1998 - A Russian Proton rocket places the first piece, the Zarya module, in orbit.
December 1998 - The space shuttle Endeavour crew, on the STS-88 mission, attaches the Unity module to Zarya initiating the first ISS assembly sequence.
June 1999 - The space shuttle Discovery crew, on mission STS-96, supplies two modules with tools and cranes.
July 2000 - Zvezda, the fifth flight, docks with the ISS to become the third major component of the station.
November 2000 - The first permanent crew, Expedition One, arrives at the station.
November/December 2000 - The space shuttle Endeavour crew, on mission STS-97, installs the first set of US solar arrays on the station and visits Expedition One.
February 2001 - Mission STS-98 delivers the US Destiny Laboratory Module.
March 2001 - STS-102 delivers Expedition Two to the station and brings Expedition One home. The crew also brings Leonardo, the first Multi-Purpose Logistics Module, to the station.
September 16, 2001 - The Russian Docking Compartment, Pirs, arrives at the ISS.
June 2002 - STS-111 delivers the Expedition Five crew and brings the Expedition Four crew home. The crew also brings the Mobile Base System to the orbital outpost.
December 2002 - STS-113 delivers the Expedition Six crew and the P1 Truss.
May 3, 2003 - Expedition Six crew return to Earth on Soyuz TMA-1. Crew members Kenneth Bowersox and Don Pettit are the first American astronauts ever to land in a Soyuz spacecraft.
July 29, 2003 - Marks the 1,000th consecutive day of people living and working aboard the ISS (this is a record for the station, but not for space).
August 10, 2003 - Russian Cosmonaut Yuri Malenchenko marries his fiancée Ekaterina Dmitriev from space. The bride and groom exchange vows over a hotline set up for the event. Dmitriev stands next to a life-sized picture of Malenchenko.
April 22, 2004 - The second of four gyroscopes that stabilize the orbiting outpost of the ISS fails. NASA officials say this does not pose an immediate threat to the crew. An extra spacewalk will have to be conducted to the fix the electrical component box thought to be at fault.
November 2, 2005 - Fifth anniversary of continuous human presence in space on the ISS.
February 3, 2006 - SuitSat-1, an unmanned space suit containing a radio transmitter is deployed as a part of an ISS spacewalk. The suit is supposed to transmit recorded messages in six languages to school children and amateur radio operators for several days before reentering Earth’s atmosphere and burning up, but it goes silent shortly after its deployment.
March 31, 2006 - Arriving with the crew of Expedition Thirteen is Marcos Pontes, the first Brazilian astronaut. Staying eight days, Pontes conducts scientific experiments before returning to Earth with the crew of Expedition Twelve.
July 7, 2006 - The arrival of Thomas Reiter of Germany via the Space Shuttle Discovery returns the station’s long-duration crew to three for the first time since May 2003 and the Columbia shuttle disaster. Reiter is the first non-US and non-Russian long-duration station crewmember, and he remains onboard during the first part of Expedition Fourteen.
September 9, 2006 - Space Shuttle Atlantis docks with the ISS, delivering the P3/P4 truss and its solar wings before undocking September 21 and returning to Earth.
September 20, 2006 - Arriving with the crew of Expedition Fourteen is Anousheh Ansari, an American businesswoman. She spends about eight days conducting experiments and blogging about her experiences before returning to Earth with two of the three members of Expedition Thirteen.
December 2006 - Arrival of Flight Engineer Sunita Williams via space shuttle mission STS-116. Williams replaces Reiter, who returns to Earth with the crew of STS-116.
April 7, 2007 - Charles Simonyi becomes the fifth space tourist when he accompanies the Expedition Fifteen crew to the ISS. He spends 12 days aboard the space station before returning to Earth with the crew of Expedition Fourteen.
June 10, 2007 - Space Shuttle Atlantis docks with the the ISS to install a new segment and solar panel on the space station and retrieve astronaut Williams, who has been at the space station since December. Williams is replaced by Flight Engineer Clayton Anderson, who will return to earth aboard Discovery on Mission STS-120.
June 15, 2007 - Four days after ISS’s computers crash, two Russian cosmonauts bring them back online. The computers control the station’s orientation as well as oxygen production. The crew used Atlantis’ thrusters to help maintain the station’s position while its computers were down.
October 25, 2007 - Space Shuttle Discovery docks with the ISS. In the days while docked with the ISS, the Discovery crew delivers and connects Harmony to the ISS, a living and working compartment that will also serve as the docking port for Japanese and European Union laboratories. Discovery and ISS crew also move an ISS solar array to prepare for future ISS expansion, planning a special spacewalk to repair damage to the solar array that occurred during its unfurling.
November 14, 2007 - ISS crew move the Harmony node from its temporary location on the Unity node to its permanent location attached to Destiny.
February 9, 2008 - Space Shuttle Atlantis arrives. Its crew delivers the European-made Columbus laboratory, a 23-foot long module that will be home to a variety of science experiments. Atlantis remains docked with the ISS for just under nine days.
March 9, 2008 - “Jules Verne,” the first of a series of European space vessels designed to deliver supplies to the ISS, launches from the Ariane Launch Complex in Kourou, French Guiana. The vessels, called Automated Transfer Vehicles (ATV), are propelled into space atop an Ariane 5 rocket, and are designed to dock with the ISS with no human assistance. The Jules Verne will wait to dock with the ISS until after Space Shuttle Endeavour’s March mission is completed.
March 12, 2008 - Space Shuttle Endeavour docks with the ISS.
March 24, 2008 - Endeavour detaches from the ISS. While docked, crew members make five spacewalks to deliver and assemble the Dextre Robotics System, deliver and attach the Kibo logistics module, attach science experiments to the exterior of the ISS, and perform other inspection and maintenance tasks.
April 3, 2008 - The unmanned European cargo ship Jules Verne successfully docks with the ISS. Able to carry more than three times the volume of the Russian-built Progress resupply vehicles, the Jules Verne contains fuel, water, oxygen and other supplies.
April 10, 2008 - Two members of Expedition 17 crew arrive at the ISS via a Russian Soyuz spacecraft. Travelling with them is Yi So-yeon, a space flight participant and South Korea’s first astronaut. Yi later returns to Earth aboard an older Soyuz spacecraft along with members of the Expedition 16 crew.
June 2, 2008 - Space Shuttle Discovery docks with the ISS. Discovery is carrying Japan’s Kibo lab, a replacement pump for the station’s toilet, and astronaut Gregory Chamitoff, who is replacing Garrett Reisman as part of the station’s crew.
June 11, 2008 - Discovery undocks with the ISS after its crew successfully delivers and installs the Japanese-built Kibo lab, delivers parts to repair the ISS’s malfunctioning toilet, collects debris samples from the station’s faulty solar power wing, and retrieves an inspection boom left behind during a previous shuttle mission. Station crewmember Reisman departs with Discovery.
October 12, 2008 - The Soyuz TMA-13 capsule carrying two Americans - flight commander Michael Fincke and computer game millionaire Richard Garriott, and Russian flight engineer Yuri Lonchakov - lifts off from Kazakhstan. It docks with the ISS on October 14.
March 12, 2009 - Orbital debris from a prior space shuttle mission forces the crew of Expedition 18 to temporarily retreat to its Soyuz capsule.
August 24, 2011 - Russian emergency officials report that an unmanned Russian cargo craft, the Progress-M12M that was to deliver 3.85 tons of food and supplies to the ISS, crashed in a remote area of Siberia.
May 19, 2012 - SpaceX’s launch of the Falcon 9 rocket, the first private spacecraft bound for the ISS, is aborted a half a second before liftoff. SpaceX engineers trace the problem to a faulty rocket engine valve.
May 22, 2012 - The unmanned SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket launches from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida. The rocket carries the Dragon spacecraft, which is filled with food, supplies and science experiments and bound for the ISS.
May 25, 2012 - The unmanned SpaceX Dragon spacecraft connects to the International Space Station, the first private spacecraft to successfully reach an orbiting space station.
October 7, 2012 - SpaceX’s Falcon 9 rocket, with its Dragon capsule carrying 1,000 pounds of supplies bound for the ISS, launches from Florida’s Cape Canaveral. It is the first of a dozen NASA-contracted flights to resupply the International Space Station, at a total cost of $1.6 billion.
May 9, 2013 - The crew discovers that the ISS is leaking ammonia. The crew performs a spacewalk and corrects the leak two days later.
November 9, 2013 - Russian cosmonauts perform the first ever spacewalk of the Olympic Torch ahead of the 2014 Sochi Winter Games.
December 11, 2013 - A pump on one of the station’s two external cooling loops shuts down after hitting a temperature limit, according to NASA. The malfunctioning loop had been producing too much ammonia, possibly the result of a malfunctioning valve.
December 24, 2013 - Astronauts complete a repair job to replace the problematic pump. Their spacewalk lasts seven and a half hours, and is the second ever spacewalk on Christmas Eve. The first was in 1999 for a Hubble Repair Mission.
March 10, 2014 - After five and a half months aboard the ISS, Expedition 38 astronauts return to earth aboard the Soyuz TMA-10M spacecraft.
September 16, 2014 - NASA announces that Boeing and Space X have been awarded contracts to build vehicles that will shuttle astronauts to and from the space station.
December 15, 2015 - Astronaut Tim Peake is the first British European Space Agency astronaut to arrive at the ISS.
March 2, 2016 - NASA astronaut Scott Kelly and Russian cosmonaut Mikhail Kornienko land in the Kazakhstan desert after a nearly yearlong mission on the ISS.
August 3, 2018 - NASA selects nine astronauts, seven men and two women, for missions in spacecraft developed by Boeing and SpaceX. The flights, scheduled for 2019, will be the first launches to space from US soil since the Space Shuttle program was retired in 2011, and the first in capsules developed and built by the private sector.
June 2019 - NASA announces the ISS is opening for commercial use. The newest NASA directive is intended to allow “commercial manufacturing and production and allow both NASA and private astronauts to conduct new commercial activities aboard the orbiting laboratory.”
October 18, 2019 - NASA astronauts Jessica Meir and Christina Koch conduct the first all-female spacewalk outside of the ISS. The spacewalk last seven hours and 17 minutes.
May 30, 2020 - SpaceX and NASA’s Falcon 9, bound for the ISS, launches. This is the first crewed spaceflight to launch from US soil since 2011. The astronauts spend two months working on the ISS, then return to Earth on August 2.
November 16, 2020 - The SpaceX Crew Dragon spacecraft with four astronauts on board safely docks with the ISS. The spacecraft launched from Florida’s Kennedy Space Center on November 15 and marks the first fully operational crewed mission for SpaceX.