Johnson Space Center

JSC Celebrates 40 Years of Human Space Flight
International Space Station JSC Turns 40 Home | Gallery

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The Johnson Space Center, charged with the responsibility for overall management of the international partnership, became the "hub" of world human space flight. The old rules and procedures were no longer adequate to deal with breadth and depth of the integration efforts that had to take place on every level of development and operations. New templates were drawn, new concepts explored, and after a few beginning fits and starts, engineers and managers from partner countries buckled down and sat across the table from each other hammering out the planning processes, the technical processes and the overall management of schedule and work flow.

The job entails nothing less than integrating the eventual use of five different launch vehicles (U.S. shuttle, Russian Soyuz and Proton, European Ariane, and Japanese H11); linking together mission control centers in Houston, Huntsville, Moscow, Montreal, Oberpfaffenhoffen, and Tskuba; training crew and ground operators in multiple locations on three continents; and orchestrating more than 1,000 hours of spacewalking to perform on orbit assembly of 47 major elements (each one unique and different) and more than 100 minor elements. The software task of interconnecting 13 major systems (including life support, guidance, navigation, propulsion, communications, etc.), including the testing and integration phases, tops three million lines of computer code, an enormous task never before accomplished. Conscientious efforts to maintain and operate the station, which will have the mass of four shuttle orbiters at assembly complete, were paralleled with performing research as the building continues. Crews with diverse backgrounds, language, culture and training ineluctably rotate and hand off to each other in a display of international cooperation symbolic of a new era of potential world peace.

Many "firsts" were encountered and the list is growing. Among them: first time a partnership of nations owns and operates a space station, first time access to previously secret facilities, first time linkages between training and control centers, the first time orchestrating of multiple spacecraft traffic, the first-of-its-kind commercial ventures, including space tourism, the first time deployment of very large solar arrays, first time a robot hands off to a robot in human space flight, the first time spacewalks are conducted without the presence of the shuttle, and the list grows. Impressive and daunting characterizes the ongoing effort of ground engineers and crew who have already battled through main computer failures, software hiccups and traffic jams.

The legacy grows, as this incredibly diverse team can already point with pride to the newest star on the horizon, which by the end of 2001 will weigh more than 300,000 pounds, with a habitable volume of a three-bedroom home, inertial guidance control using electrical power, multiple re-supply and refueling spacecrafts, multiple docking ports, two airlocks and operations of the most capable laboratory ever lifted, U.S. Destiny.

"When the world looks back on the International Space Station, they will see one huge team accomplishing an incredible mission," said NASA Space Station Program Manager Tommy Holloway. "And through integrity, trust and respecting people, no obstacle, whether technical or cultural, is preventing this world space flight team from achieving our goals."

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Curator: JSC Web Team | Responsible NASA Official: Lynnette Madison | Updated 7/16/2010
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