Encyclopedia Astronautica
ISS Unity

ISS First Mission
STS-88. Nancy Currie, operating the robotic arm, grapples the Russian Zarya. After docking it to the US Node 1 in the cargo bay, astronauts Jerry Ross and Jim Newman conduct three spacewalks to connect cables and deploy antennae. Construction of the International Space Station begins.
Credit: NASA
American manned space station. One launch, 1998.10.29, Unity. Unity was the first U.S.-built component of the International Space Station.

It consisted of a six-sided connecting module and passageway, and was the primary cargo of Space Shuttle mission STS-88, the first mission dedicated to assembly of the station.

The Unity connecting module, technically referred to as node 1, would lay a foundation for all future U.S. International Space Station modules with six berthing ports, one on each side, to which future modules would be attached. Built by The Boeing Company at a manufacturing facility at the Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Alabama, Unity was the first of three such connecting modules that would be built for the station. Sometimes referred to as Node 1, the Unity module measured 15 feet in diameter and 18 feet long.

Meeting in Space

Carried to orbit aboard the Space Shuttle Endeavour, Unity would be mated with the already orbiting Zarya control module, or Functional Cargo Block (Russian acronym FGB), a U.S.-funded and Russian-built component that would had been launched earlier aboard a Russian rocket from Kazakhstan. In addition to connecting to the Zarya module, Unity eventually would provide attachment points for the U.S. laboratory module; Node 3; an early exterior framework, or truss for the station; an airlock; and a multi-windowed cupola.

Vital Resources

Essential space station resources such as fluids, environmental control and life support systems, electrical and data systems were routed through Unity to supply work and living areas.

More than 50,000 mechanical items, 216 lines to carry fluids and gases, and 121 internal and external electrical cables using six miles of wire were installed in the Unity node. The detailed and complex hardware installation required more than 1,800 drawings. The node was made of aluminum.

Pressurized Mating Adapters

Two conical docking adapters would be attached to each end of Unity prior to its launch aboard Endeavour. The adapters, called pressurized mating adapters (PMAs), allow the docking systems used by the Space Shuttle and by Russian modules to attach to the node's hatches and berthing mechanisms. One of the conical adapters would attach Unity to the Zarya, while the other would serve as a docking port for the Space Shuttle. The Unity node with the two mating adapters attached, the configuration it would be in for launch, was about 36 feet long and weighs about 25,600 pounds.

Attached to the exterior of one of the pressurized mating adapters were computers, or multiplexer-demultiplexers (MDMs), which would provide early command and control of the Unity node. Unity also would be outfitted with an early communications system that would allow data, voice and low data rate video with Mission Control, Houston, to supplement Russian communications systems during the early station assembly activities.

Gross mass: 11,600 kg (25,500 lb).
Height: 11.00 m (36.00 ft).
Span: 4.00 m (13.10 ft).
First Launch: 1998.12.04.
Number: 1 .

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Associated Countries
Associated Spacecraft
  • International Space Station American manned space station. Development from 1994. Assembled in orbit from 1998, with completion expected 2010. In 1987-1993 the Russians successfully assembled and operated the 124-metric ton Mir station. More...

See also
  • Shuttle The manned reusable space system which was designed to slash the cost of space transport and replace all expendable launch vehicles. It did neither, but did keep NASA in the manned space flight business for 30 years. More...
  • US Space Stations Wernher von Braun brought Noordung's rotating station design with him from Europe. This he popularized in the early 1950's in selling manned space flight to the American public. By the late 1950's von Braun's team favoured the spent-stage concept - which eventually flew as Skylab. By the mid-1960's, NASA was concentrating on modular, purpose-built, zero-G stations. These eventually flew as the International Space Station. More...

Associated Launch Vehicles
  • Shuttle American winged orbital launch vehicle. The manned reusable space system which was designed to slash the cost of space transport and replace all expendable launch vehicles. It did neither, but did keep NASA in the manned space flight business for 30 years. Redesign of the shuttle with reliability in mind after the Challenger disaster reduced maximum payload to low earth orbit from 27,850 kg to 24,400 kg. More...

Associated Manufacturers and Agencies
  • NASA American agency overseeing development of rockets and spacecraft. National Aeronautics and Space Administration, USA, USA. More...
  • Boeing American manufacturer of rockets, spacecraft, and rocket engines. Boeing Aerospace, Seattle, USA. More...

Associated Programs
  • ISS Finally completed in 2010 after a torturous 25-year development and production process, the International Space Station was originally conceived as the staging post for manned exploration of the solar systrem. Instead, it was seemed to be the death knell of manned spaceflight. More...

  • McDowell, Jonathan, Jonathan's Space Home Page (launch records), Harvard University, 1997-present. Web Address when accessed: here.
  • NASA Report, NASA Factsheet Unity Background Information (IS-1999-01-ISS017JSC), Web Address when accessed: here.

Associated Launch Sites
  • Cape Canaveral America's largest launch center, used for all manned launches. Today only six of the 40 launch complexes built here remain in use. Located at or near Cape Canaveral are the Kennedy Space Center on Merritt Island, used by NASA for Saturn V and Space Shuttle launches; Patrick AFB on Cape Canaveral itself, operated the US Department of Defense and handling most other launches; the commercial Spaceport Florida; the air-launched launch vehicle and missile Drop Zone off Mayport, Florida, located at 29.00 N 79.00 W, and an offshore submarine-launched ballistic missile launch area. All of these take advantage of the extensive down-range tracking facilities that once extended from the Cape, through the Caribbean, South Atlantic, and to South Africa and the Indian Ocean. More...
  • Cape Canaveral LC39A Shuttle, Saturn V launch complex. LC39A and LC39B, part of the Kennedy Space Center, were built on Merritt Island (north/northwest of the Cape) to support the Saturn V/Apollo lunar landing program. The sites were modified in the last half of the 1970s to support the manned Space Shuttle program. Construction began in December 1963. Complex 39A was completed on 4 October 1965. Complex 39A supported two unmanned and nine manned Saturn V/Apollo missions between 9 November 1967 and 8 December 1972. The site also supported the launch of the Skylab space station on 14 May 1973. Both complexes were modified to support Space Shuttle missions later on. Complex 39A supported the first Space Shuttle launch on 12 April 1981. More...

ISS Unity Chronology

1998 December 4 - . 08:35 GMT - . Launch Site: Cape Canaveral. Launch Complex: Cape Canaveral LC39A. LV Family: Shuttle. Launch Vehicle: Shuttle. LV Configuration: Space Shuttle STS-88.
  • Unity - . Nation: USA. Agency: NASA Houston. Manufacturer: Douglas. Program: ISS. Class: Manned. Type: Manned space station. Spacecraft: ISS Unity. Decay Date: 1972-01-01 . USAF Sat Cat: 25575 . COSPAR: 1998-069F. Apogee: 400 km (240 mi). Perigee: 387 km (240 mi). Inclination: 51.5000 deg. Period: 92.43 min.

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