The Russian Segment
of the International Space Station


A scale model at Moscow Air in Space Show, MAKS-2009, demonstrated a planned configuration of the ISS by 2015.

Russian ISS Segment at a glance as of 2017:

Number of modules
64 tons
Pressurized volume
197 cubic meters


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Lifeboat to Freedom

Russia first appeared on the scene of what would become the International Space Station after NASA had concluded that it would be able to address the issue of the emergency return from the station quickly and economically by incorporating the veteran Soyuz spacecraft into the design of the outpost. On June 18, 1992, NASA Administrator Daniel Goldin and Director General of the Russian Space Agency Yuri Koptev "ratified" a contract between NASA and NPO Energia to study possible integration of Soyuz and Russian docking ports into the Freedom project.

Zarya Control Module, FGB

The Zarya ("sunrise") control module became the first element of the ISS to be launched. It was used for maneuvering and power supply at the initial phase of the station's life and later became a storage vehicle for cargo and propellant.

Zvezda Service Module, SM

The Zvezda service module is Russia's main contribution into the ISS project. The spacecraft was originally conceived as a core of a space station, which would follow Mir. In 1993, the Russian Space Agency, facing financial uncertainty with its Mir-2 project, offered NASA to incorporate the core module into the design of the US space station. The spacecraft would provide living quarters as well as refueling capability to the fledgling space station. It also contained a treadmill for the crew.

Docking Compartment, SO1

The Docking Compartment, also known as Pirs ("Pier") or SO1 from the Russian Stykovochny Otsek-1, provides the docking location for transport ships visiting the Russian Segment of the the International Space Station, ISS, and also serves as an airlock for spacewalks on the exterior of the outpost.


Science and Power Platform, NEP

The concept of the Science and Power Platform, NEP, originated in the Mir-2 project, where a special truss was expected to carry an array of solar panels, power-generating concentrators, radiators and scientific payloads. The truss would extend symmetrically on both sides of the Mir-2's core module. After Russian Mir-2 and NASA's Freedom programs merged in 1993, NEP was reconfigured to meet goals of the new project.


Universal Docking Module, USM

Universal Docking Module, USM, (sometimes referred to as UDM) would serve as a hub for four additional modules of the Russian segment. The 20-ton vehicle was to dock to the nadir (Earth-facing) docking port of the Zvezda service module. On the opposite (bottom) end, the UDM would have a transfer section with five docking ports for science modules, Docking Compartment-2 and transport ships.


Science modules, NMs

At least two modules specifically dedicated to the science research were planned to be docked to the Universal Docking Module, UDM. One of the modules could be built by the Dnepropetrovsk-based KB Yuzhnoe as the Ukrainian contribution into the ISS. In any case, RKK Energia was expected to serve as main subcontractor on the project.


Stowage and Docking Module, MSS

As of 1994, an additional stowage module could be docked to the nadir (Earth-facing) port of the Zarya control module. However, RKK Energia and Khrunichev respectively proposed the Enterprise module and Commercial Space Module, CSM, to replace the original stowage module. The concept of the MSS module remained on paper.


Enterprise module

At the end of 1999, the US-based Spacehab Inc. announced a joint venture with RKK Energia aimed to build the first privately financed and operated module for the ISS. The spacecraft originally targeted for launch at the end of 1992, would feature "a multimedia studio" for commercial broadcasts from orbit. Before the module could become a reality, Spacehab had to address multiple issues, among them cool reception from NASA and lack of energy and communication capabilities onboard the Russian segment.


MIM2 Poisk module

The exact copy of the original docking compartment, SO1, became known as Mini-Research Module 2, MIM2, or Poisk. It was added in 2009 to the zenith (sky-facing) docking port of the Zvezda Service Module, on the opposite side from the Pirs module.


Mini-Research Module, MIM1

The Mini-Research Module 1, MIM-1, Rassvet (Dawn) became the fifth permanent element of the International Space Station built in Russia. The spacecraft was essentially a stopgap measure to fill the nadir (Earth-facing) docking port on the Zarya FGB control module of the outpost. Without some kind of extension, an originally planned addition of NASA's Node-3 module to a "next-door" nadir port on the Unity/Node 1 module of the American segment would block a safe access of the Soyuz spacecraft to the Russian segment.


Orlan MKS spacesuit

As the construction of the Russian segment of the International Space Station, ISS, was about to pick up in the mid-2010s, the crews onboard the outpost would also refresh their wardrobes. By 2013, NPP Zvezda enterprise based in the town of Tomilino, southeast of Moscow, developed a new version of the venerable Orlan spacesuit, which were worn by pairs of Russian cosmonauts during as many as 135 spacewalks. The upgraded suit was dubbed Orlan MKS, where MKS stood for the Russian abbreviation of ISS.



During the pilotless mission of Soyuz MS-14 to the International Space Station, ISS, the so-called anthropomorphic, or human-like, robot named Fedor occupied a seat inside the Descent Module of the spacecraft. According to Roskosmos, smarter successors to Fedor could one day free cosmonauts from hazardous or repetitious work in space, but the protracted and twisted history of the project raised many questions about its validity.

Nauka Multi-purpose Laboratory Module, MLM

The Nauka Multi-purpose Laboratory Module, MLM, was designed to dock to the International Space Station, ISS, to give the outpost a plethora of new capabilities and to resume the assembly of the station's Russian Segment after a decade-long hiatus.



Node Module, UM

By mid-2000s, RKK Energia added a new element into the possible future configuration of the International Space Station, ISS, called "Uzlovoi Module" or Node Module in English. Despite its small size, a four-ton, ball-shaped module could play an extremely important role in the Russian space program.


Science and Power Module, NEM

After the cancellation of the NEP platform development in 2000s, it was decided to transfer most its functions to a pair of NEM modules, which would be attached to side ports of the yet-to-be-launched Node module, UM. In 2012, the Russian space agency, Roskosmos, officially approved the development of a single NEM-1 module.


Airlock Module, ShM

While planning for the expansion of the Russian segment of the International Space Station, ISS, in the second half of 2000s, engineers at RKK Energia conceived a new Airlock Module, ShM, which would replace a Docking Compartment, SO, currently used for spacewalks. The new design also evolved to support the orbital assembly of deep-space vehicles.


Oka-T free-flying laboratory

Around 2012, the Russian space agency, Roskosmos, quietly replaced a highly advertised first launch of the nation's cosmonauts from the new space port in Vostochny with an automated space lab. The Oka-T module designed for periodic servicing by space station crews in orbit should provide an exit strategy for the Russian space officials, who made an impossible promise to the Kremlin to fly a manned mission from the new space center in 2018.


An inflatable module, TM

Half a century after Aleksei Leonov floated into open space through the inflatable airlock, the company that built his spacecraft, has jump-started work on multi-layered inflatable structures. In its annual report for 2012, RKK Energia said that the new project might pave the way for a new generation of space station modules, interplanetary spacecraft and planetary bases.


NEM-2 tourist module

In 2017, Russian engineers formulated the concept of a tourist module to be included into the Russian segment of the International Space Station, ISS. It would be built on the basis of the second copy of the Science and Power Module, NEM, which was in active development at the time. Money provided, the NEM-2 module could be launched as early as 2023.


NEW, Jan. 22: Into the unknown: Russia mulls ISS operations until 2030 (INSIDER CONTENT)

In 2020, Russian specialists took the first steps aimed at extending the life span of the International Space Station, ISS, until the end of the decade, a non-trivial task which requires the certification of several modules, and a myriad of their components for a combined mission in orbit exceeding more than twice the record-breaking flight of the Mir space station.