Possibly the most interesting thing about the International Space Station (ISS) is not its experiments but how impressive of an engineering feat it is. After varying success with past space stations, multiple countries came together to build the ISS with new technologies that allowed it to be assembled and upgraded in space. The space station is divided into two main parts: the habitable modules and the solar and radiator arrays, both of which required an incredible amount of design and engineering.
Successful operation of the habitable modules is the most important thing. The modules had to be sent to orbit and docked to the station but also must provide an airtight seal to protect the astronauts inside. These modules are important because they had to be designed for astronauts to do research and experiments in an enclosed area without gravity. However, there is another critical part of the station: the solar arrays.
The solar panels and radiators are responsible for powering and cooling the station. The radiators have to cool the station while the sun is heating one side and the cool vacuum of space is freezing the other side. Powering and cooling a space station are vital, and these operations have been challenging in past stations.
The ISS is easy to simplify; however, in reality, it is extremely complex and requires engineering by many different people from many different nations to work successfully.
Learn more in additional posts in the “The ISS Engineering Feat” series on ISS power and cooling, solar array repair, and robotics.