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Wednesday, 26 July, 2000, 06:09 GMT 07:09 UK
Zvezda docks with space station
Dock APTN
Video capture: Zvezda docks with Zarya and Unity
The International Space Station (ISS) now comprises three modules orbiting the Earth at an altitude of about 400 kilometres.


This is the beginning of a new era in space in my opinion, with the world participating in this great project

Bob Castle, Nasa
The new section, the Russian-built Zvezda component, linked up with Unity and Zarya, already in space, at 0045 GMT on Wednesday.

The procedure, directed by mission controllers in Moscow, went without a hitch.

The director of the Russian space agency, Yuri Koptev, was exultant. He told his American counterpart, Nasa chief Daniel Goldin, over a speaker-phone that the docking was "more proof that we can work together".

The way is now clear for the ISS to receive its first crew. The three men, led by American commander William Shepherd, should arrive in October.

'New era in space'

Flight controllers watched the docking on a giant screen.

A series of rocket firings by Zvezda's jets over the weekend had put the module in the right position to be captured by the embryonic ISS.

ISS Nasa
A Nasa impression of how the ISS looks today
Technicians were able to confirm the units had locked together successfully just before the space station passed outside radio contact with mission control. The confirmation triggered loud applause.

"This is the beginning of a new era in space in my opinion, with the world participating in this great project," Bob Castle, flight director from the Nasa, told a news conference after the docking.

"My congratulations to all of my colleagues who designed, built, operated and made this happen."

Windows on Earth

Zvezda will be the early "brains" of the ISS. In a few days its computers will take control of the station and ensure the space construction stays in its correct orbit.

Zvezda module
Length (end-to-end) - 13 metres
Gross launching weight - 19 tonnes
Wingspan - 30 metres
Orbit at rendezvous - 386 km
Pressurised compartments - three
Windows - 13
As the station expands, many of the module's functions will be taken over by other components, but it will remain the heart of the Russian segments.

The living quarters include cubicles for sleeping and personal hygiene, a kitchen with a refrigerator, sport equipment and a table.

The module also has 13 portholes, providing an extraordinary view of Earth, and telecommunication equipment providing direct links with the mission control centres in Russia and the United States.

Bright object

The ISS, which is being built jointly by the United States, Russia, Canada, Europe and Japan, has been described as one of the most ambitious engineering projects ever attempted and a unique event in space science.

When complete it will loom seven stories high and spread over nearly an acre (half a hectare) of space. Crew members - teams of seven astronauts - will live and work in a space as big as the cabin of a Boeing 747 jumbo-jet.

And for those looking up, the $60bn construction will appear one of the brightest objects in the night sky.

However, at least 35 more space missions will be needed before the station is complete - probably in 2005/6.

 WATCH/LISTEN
 ON THIS STORY
The BBC's Russell Trott
"So far so good for Zvezda after a two week journey in orbit"
The BBC's Richard Hollingham reports
"Officials say the ISS is now getting back on track"
The BBC's Orla Guerin in Moscow
"The operation could hardly have gone more smoothly"
See also:

12 Jul 00 | Science/Nature
08 Jul 00 | Science/Nature
29 May 00 | Science/Nature
04 Feb 00 | Science/Nature
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