International Space Station Forum


Date: Wednesday 14 November (moved from the original date of 20 November 2018)

Time: TBD 9.30am to 16.40pm

Registration open. To book your place, please click here.

Draft Agenda is here.

On November 13, 1948, H.E. Ross and R. Smith presented to the Society an original paper a manned satellite (space) station. Then, on November 20 1998, just one week after the 50th anniversary of that presentation Zarya, the first element of the International Space Station, was launched. On the occasion of the 20th anniversary of the start of ISS construction, and marking the 70th anniversary of that ground breaking paper the Society is organising a one-day Forum. This event will feature an exciting program on the legacy of the pioneering BIS paper, what the ISS has accomplished over the past 20 years and what plans for its future may hold.


 INTRODUCTION Gerry Webb: Space Station a personal perspective 


A 70th Anniversary Celebration

Bob Parkinson

On November 13, 1948, H.E. Ross and R. Smith presented to the Society an original paper a manned satellite (space) station. Then, on November 20 1998, just one week after the 50th anniversary of that presentation Zarya, the first element of the International Space Station, was launched. On the occasion of the 20th anniversary of the start of ISS construction, and marking the 70th anniversary of that ground breaking paper Bob Parkinson reflects on that pioneering BIS paper.



The evolution, the assembly the operations: Dave Shayler

 There is a bright star in the heavens, one that is man-made. With sunlight reflecting off its solar arrays, the International Space Station regularly passes over inhabited areas of the Earth, appearing as a bright, fast moving star. Constructed by a global team of 16 nations between 1998 and 2011 the station is now an international research centre for the development of new technologies and systems in long duration spaceflight. Its long term the goals being the support of future flights to the moon, deep space and ultimately to Mars.

In November 2018 the core of the ISS attains its 20th anniversary in orbit, but the story of reaching that milestone is an extensive and entwined one with the twists and turns of politics, engineering, the military and international involvement and countless changes of direction.

In this presentation Dave Shayler explains how the idea of a station in space evolved from the pages of science fiction over 100 years before the world’s first space station , the Soviet Salyut, was place in orbit, and how this idea evolved into the largest construction project in history. This development is reflected in images of the major milestones in space station history, of activities both on the ground and in orbit, and how today’s achievement offer a fascinating insight not only into a very complex and on-going programme but in the future of human space exploration.

A Short History of UK Involvement in the Columbus Programme (& the origins of Envisat): Bob Parkinson

Following the successful first launch of the Space Shuttle, in 1982/3 NASA began actively proposing the Space Station as “The Next Logical Step.”  Europe had been/was involved in the Space Shuttle through the Spacelab program, and ESA now started to consider potential areas of participation in the Space Station also.  At the time the “Space Station” was a multi-component concept, including manned and unmanned “free-fliers” which would be serviced either by the Space Station or the Space Shuttle.  The author was actively involved in trhe ESA industrial studies, which eventually coalesced around a German-led concept which was named “Columbus.”  This would consist of a pressurized module which could be attached to the main Space Station or, with the addition of a service module, become a “free flier,” and an unmanned, serviceable Platform either co-orbiting with the Space Station or placed in polar orbit for Earth observation applications.  At the same time the French were proposing the Ariane-5 launched Hermes Space Plane as an addition to the Space Shuttle to provide servicing capability.  The author led the work on the unmanned Platform which became the UK’s focus of support, eventually becoming detached from the Columbus programme and metamorphosing into Envisat.

How the Space Shuttle Assembled and Supplied the Space Station: Dave Shayler

From November 1998 to July 2011 a total of 37 shuttle missions were dispatched to assemble and service the growing ISS. Building upon the skills learnt from the nine Mir dockings as well as the groundwork lay down during the development of Freedom the number of shuttle flights to space stations represented one third of the total number of shuttle missions. a remarkable achievement in the face of complexity,  delays and tragedy in the 2003 loss of Columbia and her crew at the end of an independent research mission.

In this presentation author Dave Shayler recounts the work by NASA in creating an assembly plan, and what the alternative could have been had Russia been unable to meet its responsibilities as a major partner. The creation of ISS cannot be compared with Salyut or Skylab, which could be orbited on one launch. Even Mir was significantly different in size and complexity to ISS as there were to be far more than a few separately launched modules to be linked together in orbit. Indeed it has been stated that ISS represents the largest peacetime international construction project in history, and all of it conducted in Earth orbit, travelling at 17,500 mph.  Each shuttle assembly crew had to receive special training in rendezvous and docking, robotics, extensive EVA operations and the transfer of tons of logistics. On the ground a unique processing facility had to be created to handle the huge elements to be assembled in space and what became known as the ‘Wall of EVA’ had to be scaled and conquered to finish the major assembly of ISS before the shuttle fleet was retired.

Transforming the ISS into a Model for Future NASA Programmes: Dr David Baker

When in the mid-1980s Jim Beggs recruited interest from ESA, Japan and Canada for a Space Station, it was part of a top-level internal plan to refocus NASA and direct it toward a leading role for international ventures, spreading the cost and enhancing project survivability by binding the programme to international agreements. When the USSR collapsed and the Russians came on board during the early 1990s, that direction was realised. Behind the scenes a major initiative got under way to embrace many uncommitted countries to join in this endeavour. After the Challenger disaster of 1986 the plan to use the Shuttle to attract satellite users to the partially reusable launch system had collapsed when President Reagan decreed that the Shuttle would no longer fly commercial payloads. Reacting to this, NASA placed added emphasis on using the ISS as a template for future projects, transferring the connectivity from Shuttle to Station. This paper describes the various activities of its presenter, then technical consultant, David Baker in China, Russia, India, Indonesia, Australia, Singapore and Malaysia and provides a narrative on what it was like working for NASA Administrator Jim Beggs and how the senior NASA leadership viewed the ISS as it evolved during the 1980s and 1990s, also involving several mother government departments including the Department for Transportation (DoT).

Beyond the ISS – What Happens Next?: Mark Hempsell

The ISS programme is funded to 2024, and it is thought very likely this could be extended, maybe to 2028. Whatever is finally decided; within a decade the ISS will be decommissioned and it is time to consider its successors. It seems likely that the Russia and western world alliance will split, with Russia launching a new station called OPSEK at around 100 tonnes. This is a Mir class station that will be assembled from derivations of the current Russian modules. America has left the successor LEO station to private enterprise, intending to simply contract for experimental facilities, while the agency develops a Lunar Orbital Platform-Gateway that would be launched by the Space Launch System. All these proposals are still in a high state of flux and, even if they are eventually built, it is difficult to see how they could be realized in a way that provides a smooth transition from the ISS or produce a flexible, capable infrastructure that could match the ISS let alone improve upon it. To highlight this an alternative Post ISS Architecture is shown, with an example for an independent European space station to illustrate how it works.

Closing comments by Gerry Webb


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