Space station

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The International Space Station on March 7, 2011, captured from the Space Shuttle Discovery
Model of the Chinese space station Tiangong 2 with the spaceship Shenzhou 11
The Russian Mir space station in 1998
Skylab , the only US space station to date, in 1974
The Soviet space station Salyut 7 with the Soyuz spaceship attached

Space stations are spacecraft that are mostly in the orbit of a celestial body and allow people to live on them for a long time. Since they themselves do not have a propulsion system for locomotion or landing equipment, they are dependent on spacecraft for transport. Room laboratories are a sub-form of space stations .


The technical challenge when operating a space station is, above all, supplying the crew. Due to the high costs of transport, systems had to be developed that allow the operation of a space station to be largely self-sufficient, i.e. H. in a closed circuit. Great progress has been made, especially in the treatment of water and air.

The orbit around the earth is not stable at a height of 300 kilometers, as a very thin earth atmosphere constantly slows down the space stations. Without regular thrust into higher orbits, space stations would therefore re-enter the earth's atmosphere after a few months or years. The gravity of other celestial bodies could also disturb the orbit of a space station. Space stations therefore need a constant supply, especially of fuel for course correction.

The space stations in detail

The first space station was the Soviet Salyut 1 in 1971 . One of the most important space stations was the Soviet Mir station , which was gradually expanded and used for almost 15 years. With the ISS , a space station is now permanently manned in international cooperation.

To date, thirteen space stations have been put into orbit, eleven of which have been manned:

Surname begin crash Number of
long-term crews
in kg b)
Salyut 1 April 19, 1971 October 11, 1971 1 0024 018,500 All three crew members died on the return flight in Soyuz 11 upon re-entry.
Salyut 2 3rd April 1973 May 28, 1973 0 0000 018,500 Loss of pressure and instrument failure caused the station to crash prematurely
Cosmos 557 May 11, 1973 May 22, 1973 0 0000 019,400 did not reach a stable orbit
Skylab May 14, 1973 July 11, 1979 3 0171 077,088 so far the only purely US space station
Salyut 3 June 24, 1974 January 24, 1975 1 0015th 018,500  
Salyut 4 December 26, 1974 2nd February 1977 2 0092 018,500  
Salyut 5 June 22, 1976 August 8, 1977 2 0067 019,000  
Salyut 6 29th September 1977 July 29, 1982 6th 0683 019,824 first refuelable space station
Salyut 7 April 19, 1982 February 7, 1991 5 0816 018,900  
Me February 19, 1986 March 23, 2001 28 4594 124,340 largest Russian space station to date
ISS November 20, 1998 (still in orbit) so far 65 7471 a) 455,000 under international cooperation, four Russian modules are still missing ( Nauka , two Science Power Modules and a small coupling module )
Tiangong 1 September 29, 2011 April 2, 2018 2 0021 008,506 first Chinese space station
Tiangong 2 15th September 2016 19th July 2019 1 0030th 008,600
a As of April 17, 2021
b partially rounded or estimated

Planned space stations

According to the plans of the Chinese space organization CNSA, a permanently manned space station is to follow as the successor to Tiangong 1 and Tiangong 2 by 2022 . NASA wants to operate the Lunar Orbital Platform-Gateway space station with the ISS partners from 2024 . India is planning its own space station for around 2030.

Possible future development

Future space stations could be positioned at a greater distance from the earth in one of the Lagrange points of the earth-moon system. The Lagrange points L 4 and L 5 enable the space station to have a much more stable orbit, which would significantly reduce the necessary course corrections and thus fuel consumption. However, the intensity of cosmic rays is considerably greater at a greater distance from the earth, because there is no protection from the earth's magnetosphere . For such a space station it would be necessary to take special precautions for radiation protection .

One possible concept for future space stations would be the O'Neill colonies , for example .

See also


  • Philip Baker: The Story of Manned Space Stations - An Introduction. Springer, Berlin 2007, ISBN 978-0-387-30775-6 .
  • Roger D. Launius: Space station - base camps to the stars. Smithonian, Washington DC 2003, ISBN 1-58834-120-8 .
  • Ernst Messerschmid et al .: Space Stations - Systems and Utilization. Springer, Berlin 1999, ISBN 978-3-642-08479-9 .

Web links

Wiktionary: space station  - explanations of meanings, word origins, synonyms, translations
Commons : space stations  - collection of images, videos and audio files

Individual evidence

  1. Tiangong 1 burns up in the earth's atmosphere. Süddeutsche Zeitung, April 2, 2018, accessed on April 2, 2018 .
  2. Chinese space station "Tiangong-2" over the South Pacific burned up in the atmosphere. July 19, 2019. Retrieved July 19, 2019 .
  3. China to Launch Tiangong-2 Space Lab in 2016: Astronaut., September 10, 2014, accessed September 11, 2014 .
  4. China plans to launch core module of space station around 2018. People's Daily Online, April 21, 2016, accessed September 15, 2016 .
  5. Huma Siddiqui: India to have its own space station! ISRO plans to take historic leap. In: The Hindu . June 13, 2019, accessed June 13, 2019 .