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The first element of the International Space Station lifts off

On Nov. 20, 1998, a Russian Proton-K rocket launched the Zarya FGB Control Module (Vehicle 77KM No. 17501), which kicked off the assembly of the International Space Station.

Previous chapter: Zarya FGB Control Module

FGB enters orbit


FGB Zarya (77KM No. 17501) mission at a glance:

Launch vehicle UR-500K (Proton-K) 8K82K Series 395-01
Payload fairing 77KS
Launch site Baikonur, Site 81 Pad 23 (Left pad)
Launch date and time 1998 Nov. 20, 09:40:00.006
Docking date at ISS aft port (Node 1) 1998 Dec. 6
Docking date at ISS front port (Zvezda Service Module) 2000 July 25, 03:44:44 Moscow Summer Time
Deorbit date (projected; as part of ISS) No earlier than 2024

Final preparations

Within the flight manifest of the International Space Station, ISS, project, the launch of the FGB module (officially christened Zarya in 1998) was known as Mission 1A/R, or the first American-Russian mission. The module was technically owned by NASA, but its launch, flight control and maintenance was conducted by the Russian space agency. At the engineering level, the spacecraft was also considered to be a part of the ISS' Russian Segment. According to the original plans approved on Nov. 1, 1993, its launch was scheduled for May 1997.

After around three years under construction at GKNPTs Khrunichev in Moscow, the FGB module was shipped to Baikonur at the beginning of 1998. However due to continuous delays in the overall ISS program, the launch of the module had to be postponed from June 30 to Nov. 20, 1998. As a result, the Zarya had to be mothballed in Baikonur for the whole summer of 1998. Only by September, did preparations resumed, even though, the launch was several times on the brink of further delays due to lack of funding for the assembly of the next and much more critical element -- the Service Module.

The final preparations of the Zarya took place at the spacecraft processing building at Site 254. Once final tests had been completed, the Zarya module was integrated with its launch vehicle adapter and protective fairing. The resulting upper composite was then transferred to Site 31 for fueling and on Nov. 13, 1998, it traveled to the opposite end of the space center to the Proton rocket assembly building No. 92-1, where it was integrated with its launch vehicle. On the morning of November 16, four days before the planned liftoff, the fully assembled Proton rocket with the Zarya module was rolled out to the launch pad No. 23 at Site 81.


Zarya lifts off

A three-stage Proton-K rocket carrying the Zarya FGB module lifted off from Site 81 in Baikonur Cosmodrome on a gloomy day of Nov. 20, 1998, at 09:40 Moscow Time. The vehicle targeted the 353.9 by 185.1 kilometer orbit with an orbital period of 89.6 minutes and inclination 51.62 degrees toward the Equator.

FGB Zarya launch timeline:

Elapsed time
Stage I separation
126 seconds
43.65 kilometers
1,669 meters per second
Payload fairing separation
183 seconds
78.2 kilometers
2,093 meters per second
Stage II separation
334.5 seconds
138.3 kilometers
4,427 meters per second
Stage III separation
587.6 seconds
185 kilometers
7,551 meters per second


After a nominal orbital insertion the spacecraft separated from the third stage of the launch vehicle at 09:49:47.20 Moscow Time.

FGB Zarya's initial orbit:

Orbital inclination
51.6217 (+/-0.025) degrees
51.6171 degrees
185.2 (+/-6) kilometers
184.3 kilometers
354.5 (+/-15) kilometers
362.2 kilometers
Orbital period
89.6739 (+/-0.667) minutes
89.6739 minutes


After entering the initial elliptical orbit, the FGB was scheduled to increase the altitude of its perigee to enter a 254 by 354-kilometer orbit on the second day of the mission. Next, the FGB was to conduct two more maneuvers to position itself for the rendezvous with the Space Shuttle, first by entering the 305 by 383-kilometer orbit on the fourth day of the mission and then entering a 385-kilometer circular orbit on the fifth day of the flight.

The ascent to orbit was reported to be a success, clearing the way for the launch of the Space Shuttle with NASA's Node-1 Unity module and the rendezvous with the FGB within 16 days after its launch. The Space Shuttle Endeavor lifted off on Dec. 4, 1998, and successfully docked the Node-1 Unity module to Zarya on Dec. 6, 1998.

In 1999 and 2000, Space Shuttle revisited the Zarya FGB/Node-1 Unity stack during the STS-96 and STS-101 missions to re-supply it and outfit it for future operations.

In the initial phase of the its flight, Zarya FGB provided attitude control, power supply and life support to the nascent outpost. However in 2000, this role was transferred to the newly launched Zvezda Service Module, SM, which docked with Zarya on July 25. Since that time, the Zarya FGB has become a closet for dry cargo inside the station, while its exterior tanks have been used as a propellant storage.


Astronauts from the Space Shuttle mission STS-88 work on the embryonic International Space Station, hours after connecting the first element -- the Russian-built Zarya FGB control module with the US-built Node 1 Unity module in December 1998. Credit: NASA


Chronology of the Zarya FGB module:

1993 December: Russia and US agree to merge the Mir-2 and Freedom projects to form the International Space Station, ISS.

1994 December: The construction of the FGB Control Module begins at Khrunichev enterprise in Moscow.

1996 July 16: Russia and US sign an initial ISS development and assembly schedule.

1998 January: The FGB module is shipped to Baikonur for final preparations for launch.

1998 July 2: The FGB module is publicly named Zarya, a Russian for "dawn" or "sunrise."

1998 Nov. 20, 09:40 Moscow Time: The Proton rocket launches the Zarya FGB module.

1998 Dec. 4: Space Shuttle Endeavour lifts off from Kennedy Space Center on the STS-88 mission to rendezvous with the Zarya FGB Control Module.

1998 Dec. 6: The crew of the Space Shuttle Endeavour captures the Zarya FGB control module and attached to the Node 1 Unity module in the orbiter's cargo bay. The stack was then released into orbit.


2000 July 25, 03:44:44 Moscow Summer Time: The Zarya FGB/Unity node stack of the International Space Station, ISS, successfully docked to the Zvezda service module launch on July 12, 2000. The integration of the service module into the ISS was now completed.

2013 November: Boeing awards a $70-million contract to GKNPTs Khrunichev to extend the life span of the Zarya FGB module until 2020.

2019 Aug. 28: Boeing awards GKNPTs Khrunichev another contract for the maintenance and upgrades of the FGB Zarya module, this time from 2021 to 2024.



Page author: Anatoly Zak; Last update: November 20, 2023

Page editor: Alain Chabot; Last edit: November 20, 2018

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FGB from the back

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FGB from the right

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Front top

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FGB from the left

The FGB module during pre-launch processing at Site 254 in Baikonur. Photos were likely taken between Nov. 3 and 5, 1998. Click to enlarge. Credit: Khrunichev

FGB fairing

The payload fairing, which covered the FGB module during its ride to orbit on a Proton rocket in November 1998. Click to enlarge. Credit: Khrunichev


FGB module after integration with its payload fairing.



A Proton rocket with the Zarya FGB control module rolled and ererected on the launch pad on the morning of Nov. 16, 1998. Click to enlarge.


A Proton rocket with Zarya FGB on the launch pad.



FGB liftoff

The FGB Zarya module lifts off from Baikonur on Nov. 20, 1998. Click to enlarge. Copyright © 1998 Anatoly Zak

FGB in orbit

The very first element of the International Space Station -- the Zarya FGB control module -- photographed in orbit during the STS-88 mission. Credit: NASA


Shuttle crew uses robotic arm to attach just captured FGB module to Node-1. Click to enlarge. Credit: NASA


The Zarya FGB control module (left) docked to the Unity module in the aftermath of the STS-88 mission in December 1998. Credit: NASA


An internal view of the nadir port of the FGB module. Credit: NASA


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