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Above: A scale model at Moscow Air in Space Show, MAKS-2009, demonstrated a planned configuration of the ISS by 2015.

Lifeboat to Freedom

Russia first appeared on the scene of what would become the Intenrational Space Station, when NASA concluded that it would be able to address the issue of the emergency return from the station quickly and economically by incorporating the veteran Soyuz spacecraft into the design of the outpost. On June 18, 1992, NASA Administrator Daniel Goldin and Director General of the Russian Space Agency Yuri Koptev "ratified" a contract between NASA and NPO Energia to study possible use of Soyuz and Russian docking port in the Freedom project.

Zarya Control Module (FGB)

Zarya (Sunrise) control module, also known as FGB, which stands for Russian abbreviation of Functional Cargo Block, became the first element of the ISS to be launched. The idea of the module was proposed by Khrunichev Enterprise. The Zarya/FGB is based on the TKS spacecraft originally developed for the canceled project of the Almaz military orbital station. Before its reincarnation as the Zarya/FGB, the TKS had flown as the transport ship, resupplying the Salyut-6 and 7 space stations. TKS design also heavily influenced the development of four add-on modules of the Mir space station.

Zvezda Service Module (SM)

The Zvezda service module is Russia's main contribution into the ISS project. The spacecraft was originally conceived as a core of a space station, which would follow Mir. In 1993, the Russian Space Agency, facing financial uncertainty with its Mir-2 project, offered NASA to incorporate the core module into the design of the US space station. The spacecraft would provide living quarters as well as refueling capability to the fledgling space station. It also contained a treadmill for the crew.

Docking Compartment (SO)/Mini-Research Module-2 (MIM2)

The Docking Compartment provides a hatch one meter in diameter and the airlock for the space walks from the Russian segment of the station. (NASA plans its own, larger airlock attached to the US segment of the outpost) The Docking Compartment will also provide a third docking port for the Russian transport ships heading toward the station. The concept of the module was originally developed for the Mir-2 project.


Mini-Research Module (MIM1)

The Mini-Research Module 1, MIM-1, Rassvet (Dawn) became the fifth permanent element of the International Space Station built in Russia. The spacecraft was essentially a stopgap measure to fill the nadir (Earth-facing) docking port on the Zarya FGB control module of the outpost. Without some kind of extension, an originally planned addition of NASA's Node-3 module to a "next-door" nadir port on the Unity/Node 1 module of the American segment would block a safe access of the Soyuz spacecraft to the Russian segment.

Science and Power Platform (NEP)

The concept of the Science and Power Platform, NEP, originated in the Mir-2 project, where a special truss was expected to carry an array of solar panels, power-generating concentrators, radiators and scientific payloads. The truss would extend symmetrically on both sides of the Mir-2's core module. After Russian Mir-2 and NASA's Freedom programs merged in 1993, NEP was reconfigured to meet goals of the new project.

Universal Docking Module (USM)

Universal Docking Module, USM, (sometimes referred to as UDM) would serve as a hub for four additional modules of the Russian segment. The 20-ton vehicle was to dock to the nadir (Earth-facing) docking port of the Zvezda service module. On the opposite (bottom) end, the UDM would have a transfer section with five docking ports for science modules, Docking Compartment-2 and transport ships. The UDM would also carry a powerful additional life-support system, which would allow the increase of the long-duration crews onboard the ISS. However, since mid-1990s, the development of the module has stalled due to lack of funds.


At the end of 1999, the US-based Spacehab Inc. announced a joint venture with RKK Energia aimed to build the first privately financed and operated module for the ISS. The spacecraft originally targeted for launch at the end of 1992, would feature "a multimedia studio" for commercial broadcasts from orbit. Before the module could become a reality, Spacehab had to address multiple issues, among them cool reception from NASA and lack of energy and communication capabilities onboard the Russian segment. The considerable funds had to be also raised to finance the project.

FGB-2/Multipurpose Laboratory Module

Although Khrunichev's contract with Boeing on the construction of the Zarya control module financed only single module, the Moscow-based company used spare parts and its own funds to build a backup spacecraft in case the original Zarya fails in the launch mishap or in orbit. By the time, Zarya, also known as FGB-1, successfully docked with Zvezda service module in July 2000, the FGB-2 back up module was about 65 percent ready. Khrunichev considered several potential roles for the craft in the ISS program, including its use as a heavy supply ship for the Russian segment.


Node module

By mid-2000s, RKK Energia added a new element into the possible future configuration of the International Space Station, ISS, called "Uzlovoi Module" or Node Module in English. Despite its small size, a four-ton, ball-shaped module could play an extremely important role in the Russian space program.


NEW: NEM-1 module

After the cancellation of the NEP platform development in 2000s, it was decided to transfer most its functions to a pair of NEM modules, which would be attached to side ports of the yet-to-be-launched Node module, UM.


Stowage and Docking Module (MSS)

As of 1994, an dditional stowage module could be docked to the nadir (Earth-facing) port of the Zarya control module. However, RKK Energia and Khrunichev respectively proposed the Enterprise module and Commercial Space Module, CSM, to replace the original stowage module.

Science modules

At least two modules specifically dedicated to the science research were planned to be docked to the Universal Docking Module, UDM. One of the modules could be built by the Dnepropetrovsk-based KB Yuzhnoe as the Ukrainian contribution into the ISS. In any case, RKK Energia was expected to serve as main subcontractor on the project.


An inflatable module

Half a century after Aleksei Leonov floated into open space through the inflatable airlock, the company that built his spacecraft, has jump-started work on multi-layered inflatable structures. In its annual report for 2012, RKK Energia said that the new project might pave the way for a new generation of space station modules, interplanetary spacecraft and planetary bases.


Orlan MKS

As the construction of the Russian segment of the International Space Station, ISS, was about to pick up in the mid-2010s, the crews onboard the outpost would also refresh their wardrobes. By 2013, NPP Zvezda enterprise based in the town of Tomilino, southeast of Moscow, developed a new version of the venerable Orlan spacesuit, which were worn by pairs of Russian cosmonauts during as many as 135 spacewalks. The upgraded suit was dubbed Orlan MKS, where MKS stood for the Russian abbreviation of ISS.