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International Space Station (ISS)

A research laboratory in Earth orbit

The key aims that gave birth to the International Space Station (ISS) were the ability to conduct scientific experiments in microgravity, to provide an orbital observatory of Earth and the stars, and to lay the groundwork for future human spaceflights. Developed by NASA in partnership with ESA and the Russian, Canadian and Japanese space agencies, the ISS will continue operating until 2020 and possibly beyond.

In 1998, the Russian Zarya module was lofted into Earth orbit and became the first element of the International Space Station (ISS). Assembly of the station was completed 13 years later in 2011 and it now offers a living space of some 400 cubic metres. The ISS has been occupied permanently since November 2000.

The main objective of the ISS is to allow scientists to conduct experiments in microgravity. For example, they can exploit the station’s unique environment to assess the impacts of weightlessness on our cardio-vascular system, with medical equipment like Cardiomed, developed by CNES and used aboard the station since 2010. Or they can observe the behaviour of fluids in certain very specific conditions, using the DECLIC mini-laboratory (Dispositif d’Etude de la Croissance et des LIquides Critiques) developed by CNES and launched to the ISS in 2009.

From its orbital outpost at an altitude of approximately 400 km, the ISS gives scientists the chance to detect physical and physiological phenomena otherwise masked by gravity on the ground. The station also offers a unique vantage point to observe Earth and outer space. Lastly, it is laying the groundwork for future crewed exploration missions. Initiated and led by NASA, and developed in partnership with ESA, the Russian federal space agency Roscosmos, the Japan Aerospace and eXploration Agency (JAXA) and the Canadian Space Agency (CSA), the ISS will continue operating until 2020 and possibly beyond.

Mission Organisation d'expériences scientifiques en apesanteur
Réalisation d'expériences scientifiques en apesanteur (santé humaine, physique, matériaux…)
Préparation des futurs vols habités d’exploration
Position Orbite basse terrestre (environ 400 km)
Date de lancement
20 novembre 1998
Durée de la mission 22 ans minimum
Environ 400 tonnes

Last updated: May 2014.