How Things Work
Space Station Truss
- By Adam Pitluk
- Air & Space magazine, March 2007
(Page 3 of 3)
A 200-foot network of rail lines integrated into the truss’ design serves as transportation for astronauts and equipment. A mobile transporter is attached to the rails, much the same way as a roller coaster connects to its tracks, and is powered by an attached cable that unspools or reels up as the mobile transporter moves along the tracks.
The tracks lead to eight designated worksites. One of the station’s robotic arms, mounted on top of the transporter, can pluck equipment or space-walking astronauts during station repairs or installation.
Also built into the truss are a slew of sensors, antennas, and ports. Most of these external boxes are part of the electrical, communications, cooling, or navigation systems. But there are also cameras and internal structural sensors to monitor the health of the station, as well as ports where temporary cameras can be mounted to oversee spacewalks. Some spare parts are also stored on truss
Engineers have placed mobile footholds around truss worksites that allow the crew to move them to different locations during spacewalks.
“One of the beauties of the [truss] is that we could lay in a lot of flexibility,” McCann says.
The world’s orbital outpost continues to grow, launch by launch. The European Union provides labs and logistics-support vehicles, Russian craft can ferry astronauts back and forth, and a piece of Canadian robotics places the newly arrived parts together.
It may take a village to raise a child, but it takes an entire planet to raise a space station.