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  • So you want to build a space station.

  • Maybe you've got a cardboard box, scissors, and some glue to get started... and hopefully

  • billions of dollars.

  • But where do you actually start?

  • Well, let's look at some of the space stations that have orbited the Earth and had astronauts

  • or cosmonauts inside.

  • The first was in 1971, when the Soviet Union designed the Salyut-1, which was basically

  • a two-room satellite with a docking compartment so cosmonauts could enter.

  • Over the next decade, the Soviet Union launched more versions of the Salyut, all the way up

  • to Salyut-7.

  • Most of them had crews for just a couple months at most, before the empty space stations were

  • sent back into Earth's atmosphere to safely burn up over the oceans.

  • But a big breakthrough came in the 1980s, when the Soviet Union built a brand new space

  • station called the Mir.

  • The Mir was occupied by cosmonauts for over 12 of the 15 years it spent in space, and

  • it was unique because it was a modular space station.

  • Basically, every component of the space station was made separately on Earth, and everything

  • was put together in space.

  • This means you can add in new parts, depending on the mission.

  • Kind of like playing with Legos.

  • But the tricky part is connecting these pieces together.

  • There are different ways to do a space rendezvous, but one of the key techniques is called a

  • Hohmann transfer.

  • To start out, you want to launch your module into orbit, but closer to Earth than the rest

  • of the space station.

  • Then, you ignite the module's engines with two carefully-timed pulses -- the Hohmann

  • transfer -- to push the module into a higher circular orbit, closer to the station.

  • When the moment is just right, the module performs another Hohmann transfer to get right

  • in front of the space station.

  • Then, the module does a 180 degree U-turn and is steered into a docking platform, where

  • robotic arms or astronauts can help make the final connections if needed.

  • Pull it off, and you've built a modular space station like the Mir -- the biggest

  • man-made object ever to be in space, before its mission ended and it had a controlled

  • re-entry into Earth's atmosphere in 2001.

  • But in 1998, the International Space Station program was launched and quickly broke that

  • record.

  • The ISS is currently the size of a US football field, weighs over 300,000 kilograms, and

  • has been occupied by astronauts for over 15 years now!

  • It's also a modular space station, made up of 16 pressurized modules.

  • And 16 countries helped with the work, including Canada, the US, Russia, Japan, Brazil, and

  • some in the European Space Agency.

  • All of these modules have their own role, but we'll start with the basics: Zarya,

  • Unity, and Zvezda -- the first three modules of the ISS.

  • Zarya was the very first module and responsible for the main propulsion, some communication

  • with Earth, and had two solar arrays to provide electrical power.

  • But now that we have new modules, Zarya is mainly just used for storage.

  • Unity is a big connector piece that has over 50,000 cables, pipes, and mechanical parts

  • -- which connect electronic systems and transport fluids to create a stable, livable environment.

  • Zvezda is responsible for some of the main controls, and has life support systems, with

  • enough room for two astronauts to live.

  • These starting modules were built in Russia and the US, and didn't meet until they were

  • orbiting around the Earth... at over 20,000 kilometers per hour.

  • They all pulled off the proper maneuvers in space, including the Hohmann transfer, and

  • formed the humble beginnings of the ISS!

  • Then, more modules were added, such as science laboratories like Destiny, Columbus, and Kibo.

  • Or more connectors, like Tranquility and Harmony.

  • The ISS also added the Integrated Truss Structure, which is designed to connect external equipment

  • to the modules -- like big solar arrays.

  • They've even got a big robotic arm that can do work outside the space station, like

  • moving supplies, maintaining the station, and even attaching more modules.

  • And right now, the ISS is experimenting with a new expandable module called BEAM.

  • It was compressed into a small capsule when it was launched in April 2016, was expanded,

  • and is currently being tested for its living and working capabilities.

  • As of today, there are only two space stations in orbit -- the ISS, and China's Tiangong-1,

  • which is much smaller and part of a CNSA program to create their own large modular space station

  • by 2023.

  • Right now, only trained astronauts are living on these space stations.

  • But some companies hope that inflatable modules like BEAM could eventually host tourists.

  • And if that's true, maybe someday you can go up yourself and get a real feeling for

  • how these space stations are built.

  • Thanks for watching this episode of SciShow Space, and thanks especially to our patrons

  • on Patreon like Amy Cohen and Samuel E Joseph who help make this show possible.

  • Thanks Amy and Sam for supporting SciShow and sending us your great, thought-provoking

  • questions.

  • If you want to help us keep making episodes like this, just go to patreon.com/scishow

  • to learn more.

  • And don't forget to go to youtube.com/scishowspace and subscribe!

So you want to build a space station.

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How To Build A Space Station

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    joey joey posted on 2021/07/01
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