At the risk of boring my readers, I am today writing on space technology, one of the most amazing wonders of the late twentieth and early twenty-first centuries. Satellite, a man-made structure hanging in space between 150 and 35,000 kilometers above the earth surface rotating around the earth while receiving and sending signals with astonishing outcomes. These outcomes are so impactful to humanity positively thereby making lives comfortable and enjoyable. Imagine life today without GSM and Internet services. The space technology is attempting to unravel the wonders of nature, the omnipotent perfect creation of the universe and the mysteries surrounding the space and its contents. International Space Station (ISS) is the busiest and long-lasting, man-made satellite hanging in space. It is the largest man-made structure ever put into space since 1998.
ISS was so large that it could not be launched in its entirety at once. It was therefore sent in space in pieces, and then constructed while in orbit. The first ISS component was launched in 1998, with the first long-term residents arriving on 2nd November 2000. Since then, the station has been continuously occupied by people up to date, which is about 24 years today. The weight of ISS is 450,000kg with a size of 108.51 meters by 73.15 meters, which is approximately equivalent to a football field. The ISS program was a joint project between five participating space agencies: NASA (United States), Roscosmos (Russia), JAXA (Japan), ESA (Europe), and CSA (Canada). The ownership and use of the space station are established by intergovernmental treaties and agreements. What are these five participating agencies?
NASA is an acronym of National Aeronautics and Space Administration. It is an independent agency of the United States Federal Government responsible for the civilian space program, as well as aeronautics and aerospace research. NASA was established in 1958 as an agency with distinct civilian orientation for peaceful scientific applications in space science and technology. Since its establishment, most US space exploration efforts have been led by NASA, including the Apollo Moon landing missions, the Skylab space station, and later the Space Shuttle. The agency is also responsible for the Launch Services Program, which provides oversight of launch operations and countdown management for un-crewed NASA launches. Since establishment, NASA is assiduously working to achieve its vision of discovering and expanding knowledge for the benefit of humanity.
The second is “Roscosmos”, a State Corporation for Space Activities, which was originally part of a Russian Federal Space Agency. It was saddled with responsibilities for a wide range and types of space flights and cosmonautics programs for the Russian Federation. The corporation evolved over the years and consolidated itself and became “the national state corporation” on 28 December 2015 through a presidential decree.
The third is “JAXA” (Japan), which is an acronym of “National Research and Development Agency on Aerospace Research and Development”. It is the Japanese national aerospace and space agency. JAXA was formed on 1st October 2003 through the merger of three previously independent organizations; Japan’s Institute of Space and Astronautical Science (ISAS), the National Aerospace Laboratory of Japan (NAL), and National Space Development Agency of Japan (NASDA). JAXA is responsible for research, technology development and launch of satellites into orbit. It is also involved in many more advanced missions such as asteroid exploration and possible human exploration of the Moon. Its motto or corporate slogan is “Explore to Realize”, which was made from previous slogan “Reaching for the skies, exploring space”.
ESA is an acronym of European Space Agency. ESA is an intergovernmental organization of 22 member states of European Union, dedicated to the exploration of space. The agency was established in 1975 with head office located in Paris, France. ESA has a worldwide staff of about 2,200 four years ago (2018) and had an annual budget of about €5.72 billion (~US$6.43 billion) in 2019. ESA’s space flight program includes human spaceflight (mainly through participation in the International Space Station program); the launch and operation of un-crewed exploration missions to other planets and the Moon; Earth observation, science and telecommunication; designing launch vehicles; and maintaining a major spaceport, the Guiana Space Centre at Kourou, French Guiana.
Lastly, CSA (Canada) is an acronym of Canadian Space Agency, which is the national space agency of Canada. It was established by the Canadian Space Agency Act which received Royal Assent on May 10, 1990. The agency’s headquarters is located at the John H. Chapman Space Centre in Longueuil, Quebec. Canada has a famous history of being among the few countries that started space research immediately after the World II. In September 1962, Canada became the third country after USA and USSR to put an artificial satellite into space when it launched “Alouette 1” that studied the ionosphere. In 1972, Canada became the first country in the world to establish its own domestic geostationary communication satellite network after launching Anik A-1 into space.
Since 1998, these five countries have been harmoniously working complementing each other to make the success of International Space Station (ISS) to what it is today. The result of this success is advancing space technology to a greater height in the last two decades. ISS is used in several areas of space research to study planetary, cosmic bodies and solar system. With estimated cost well exceeding $100 billion since the program started, ISS is the most expensive man-made object ever built in space.
The ISS is a low Earth orbit satellite maintaining an orbit at an average altitude of 400 kilometers above earth surface. ISS moves with a speed of 28,800 kilometer per hour thereby circling the Earth in roughly 92 minutes and completes 15.5 orbits per day. This ultra-hypersonic speed makes the ISS weightless while circling the Earth. Thus, astronauts working and living on the Station experience 16 sunrises and sunsets each day of 24 hours. This means that the people, mostly astronauts working in ISS experience night and day each one-and-half hour time making our 24-hour day equivalent to 16 days over there. Imagine having a complete day every one-hour-thirty-minutes.
Specifically, 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. There are several activities by different people visiting and staying in ISS. It 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. What are the successes achieved in ISS and prospects as it moves towards 2030, the target year of the satellite? To be continued next week.