Space station assembled from modules in Earth orbit largely by the U.S. and Russia, with assistance and components from a multinational consortium.
The project, which began as a U.S. effort, was long delayed by funding and technical problems. Originally called Freedom in the 1980s, it was redesigned in the 1990s to reduce costs and expand international involvement, at which time it was renamed. In-orbit construction started in late 1998 with the launches of a Russian control module and a U.S.-built connecting node, which were linked in orbit by space shuttle astronauts. In mid 2000 a habitat and control-centre module was added, and later in the year the ISS received its first resident crew, comprising two Russians and an American. Other elements were subsequently joined to the station, with the overall plan calling for a complex of laboratories and habitats crossed by a long truss supporting four large solar power arrays. Station construction involved at least 16 countries, including Canada, Japan, Brazil, and 11 members of the European Space Agency . Much of the early work aboard the ISS would focus on long-term life-sciences and material-sciences research in the weightless environment. It was expected to serve as the basis for human operations in Earth orbit for at least the first quarter of the 21st century.