November 20, 1998 – International Space Station is sent to orbit
NASA reported on November 20, 1998:
Under overcast skies from a launch pad not far from where Yuri Gagarin became the first human to be launched into space, a spacecraft named Zarya, the Russian word for sunrise, rocketed into orbit today to usher in the era of the International Space Station.
Enclosed in the nose fairing of a Russian Proton rocket, the Zarya Control Module lifted off at 11:40 a.m. local time (1:40 a.m.EST, 9:40 a.m. Moscow time) from the Baikonur Cosmodrome on the steppes of the Asian nation of Kazakstan, the first component of an international complex involving five Partner agencies and more than a dozen nations.
The launch was viewed in person by NASA Administrator Daniel Goldin, Russian Space Agency General-Director Yuri Koptev and other heads of the Partner agencies along with a host of station program officials.
After a flawless countdown, the 180-foot long Proton rocket thundered away on a trajectory carrying the Zarya to an initial orbit about 220 statute miles by 115 statute miles. A little less than 10 minutes after launch, the Proton’s third stage separated from Zarya, triggering a sequence of pre-programmed commands to deploy critical communications and rendezvous antennas. Three minutes later, Zarya’s large solar arrays unfurled, enabling the module to convert sunlight into electricity through a wingspan of 80 feet. Zarya’s docking probe was also extended for its linkup to the Russian Service Module following that component’s launch next summer.
- NASA ISS image gallery