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International Space Station - The W1nners' Club

Photo by NASA

It’s a hard knock life – not for us, but for you. It’s quite hard to get fired from a job these days, what with the advent of employment legislation. If you do something serious enough to get you the sack, you usually have ample opportunity to simply not do it again, but you have managed to assert your place in the world by being one of those people for whom a verbal and written warning was simply not enough.

Alas, you have now joined the ranks of the job free and must decide how you will keep the banks and credit card company at bay with an alternative source of income.

Have you ever considered building your own International Space Station?

You’ll get to spend your days / nights (even though strictly speaking there is no such thing as day and night out in space) conducting valuable scientific experiments if you do.

If whizzing through space roughly 400 km above the earth sounds like it could be a bit of fun, here’s what you’ll need to do to make it happen:

1.    Get the world’s major space agencies involved

 

Before you even begin to consider launching an International Space Station, you will of course need to make it an international project so you will require the support of the world’s major space agencies. It is therefore a good idea to curry favour with the Japanese Space Agency, Canadian Space Agency, European Space Agency, Roscosmos (Russian space agency) and NASA – so start following them on twitter and start liking all their tweets to get a foot in the door before an international treaty is signed that involves a total of 15 countries.

2.    Launch the first module

 

This section will provide your space station with propulsion, attitude control, communications and electrical power, but it won’t have any long-term life support functions. You’ll then need to speak to your mates at NASA and get them to supply a passive module so that you can bolt this on to allow other spacecraft to dock onto your space station.

3.    Make it habitable

 

The next module you launch will need to have solar arrays and a communications antenna so that you can send pictures of yourself trying to drink Pepsi in zero gravity for school science classes to marvel over and it will need to attach to the hardware that you already have floating in space. Your third module will therefore need to maintain a station-keeping orbit whilst the first and second sections dock with it using direction from ground control and a special automated rendezvous and docking system that was invented by the Russians. The third module should add sleeping quarters, a toilet, a kitchen, CO2 scrubbers, a dehumidifier, oxygen generators, exercise equipment, data, voice and television communications with mission control and a sunbed which will enable permanent habitation of the station. (You’re right – we were joking about the sunbed).

4.    Give your space station a call sign

 

Anybody that watches the TV show Stranger Things will know that you can’t have people talking via walkie talkie to each other without a decent call sign. Whilst the radio your space station uses will be slightly more hi-tech than a bog-standard two way radio transceiver from the 1980s, having to say “Hello – this is the International Space Station talking,” every time ground control wants to find out if you’re running out of loo roll can be a bit cumbersome. We suggest you use a short snappy name like ‘Alpha’ to name your space station. Try at this point to avoid a Cold War era type argument between Russia and America over what the call sign name should be and maybe consider picking names out of a hat to make the process fair.

5.    Add more segments to the integrated truss structure

 

The Integrated Truss Structure of your International Space Station will need to consist of a linearly arranged sequence of connected trusses on which various unpressurized components are mounted, such as logistics carriers, radiators, solar arrays, and other equipment. It will supply your space station with a bus architecture and will need to be approximately 110 meters long and made from Aluminium and Stainless Steel. Here is a clip showing how a section of the truss structure extends itself:

 

6.    Add a few more solar arrays

 

It basically works like this: more solar arrays = more power = more pressurized sections = more space for the astronauts to do somersaults in zero gravity. In total, your space station will have 15 pressurised modules and the integrated truss structure. The different space agencies will all also want to add their own little gadgets and gizmos to your space station like robot arms, additional power modules and special laboratories. In total, your international space station will weigh a whopping 400 tonnes and will include experiments, spare parts, personal effects, crew, foodstuff, clothing, propellants, water supplies, gas supplies, docked spacecraft, and other items – thus making it arguably the largest and most costly meccano set the world (and beyond) has ever seen. If it ends up looking like this you will have done a good job:

International Space Station - The W1nners' Club

Good luck!

 

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