Space Stations

Fifteen Years Ago, International Space Station Assembly Begins

By Keith Cowing
December 6, 2013
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Fifteen Years Ago, International Space Station Assembly Begins
STS-88 Begins ISS Assembly

On Dec. 6, 1998, the crew of space shuttle mission STS-88 began construction of the International Space Station, attaching the U.S.-built Unity node and the Russian-built Zarya module together in orbit.
The crew carried a large-format IMAX® camera, used to take this image of Unity lifted out of Endeavour’s payload bay to position it upright for connection to Zarya. Zarya, launched on Nov. 20, 1998, was the first piece of the International Space Station. Also known as the Functional Cargo Block (FGB), it would provide a nucleus of orientation control, communications and electrical power while the station waited for its other elements.

Two weeks later, on Dec. 4, 1998, NASA’s space shuttle Endeavour launched Unity, the first U.S. piece of the complex, during the STS-88 mission. Image Credit: NASA

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