How Large Is ISS?

We’ve all seen pictures of the Internation Space Station. In comparison to the Earth, it looks tiny! But how big is it actually?

The size of the Internation Space station actually depends on when you ask. As an average, the station is around the size of a football field when including its solar arrays, however, this can always change as new components are added to the station to conduct new experiments and studies.

At the time of writing, the ISS takes up 932 cubic meters of space. Two-thirds of this space is taken up by equipment, and the last third is space used for general living needs.

The station weighs almost one million pounds, which is incredibly impressive considering that everything used to construct the space station had to be brought up from Earth. 

The International Space Station has two sides - the Russian side, called the ‘Russian Orbital Segment’ or ‘ROS’, and the American side, the U.S. Orbital Segment, also known as USOS.
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The International Space Station includes six sleeping quarters and only six or seven sleeping bags, meaning that when there are extra astronauts onboard the station, the astronauts have to work out alternative arrangements.

Luckily, the lack of gravity means that when sleeping onboard the International Space Station, you can sleep in any orientation - even upside down!

This is because the lack of gravity means that they don’t have blood rushing to their head and making them dizzy or disorientated, and floating upside feels exactly the same as floating the right side up. This means that their sleeping quarters don’t take up too much space - each room takes up around the size of a telephone box.

The station also has two bathrooms, a gym, and a 360-degree bay window! Another cool component of the space station is its ‘Canadarm2’.

The Canadarm2 is a mechanical arm attached to the station, and it can be used to move large objects around. It can be utilized for helping shuttles to dock to the station, and it played a huge part in assembling the space station, as it can move the large components of the space station around.

The International Space Station is the single most expensive man-made object, costing over a whopping 100 billion dollars!

Is ISS Visible From Earth?

Yes, the International Space Station can be seen from Earth - but it depends on when you look. The ISS travels at a speed of 28,000 kilometers per hour, completing 16 orbits every 24 hours - that’s a lap around the world, once every 90 mins!

The space station is the third brightest object in the sky at night - after the sun and moon, of course.

It travels approximately 400 kilometers above our heads, meaning that it is visible from the right vantage point, at the right time. We’re able to see the station because of the reflection of the sun’s light bouncing off of the solar arrays flanking the station. 

This means that it is super easy to spot in the summer and can be seen at all times of the night, but in the winter there is less light to reflect, meaning that the ISS is only visible around sunrise and sunset, as this is the only time that it gets enough light.

It’s easy to mistake seeing the International Space Station for a plane. It’s probably not the ISS if you can see it flashing, or if there is a red light. In these circumstances, it is probably a plane.

What Is The Temperature Inside The ISS?

The inside of the International Space Station is usually somewhere between 65 and 80 degrees Fahrenheit in temperature. This varies depending on where in the station you are, what time it is, and what experiments/equipment is being used.

The outside of the ISS is normally somewhere around -455 degrees Fahrenheit on the cold, shady side of the space station and 250 degrees Fahrenheit on the side exposed to the sun - a massive difference!

This is because the majority of space is extremely cold, as a result of a lack of light and heat sources, but the sun is extremely hot, meaning that the side facing the sun is subjected to these extreme temperatures.


The International Space Station is surrounded by a Multi-layer Insulation, also known as ‘MLI’. This is made of Mylar and Kapton - both of which are lightweight materials that are used to make emergency blankets here on earth. These materials are used on the station because of their heat-resistant properties.

The International Space Station moves heat around the station using something called an ‘Active Thermal Control System’, or ‘ATCS’. The ATCS uses a closed-loop system - it has a set of water pipes used to transport heat around the station, and a set of ammonia pipes, which are used to cool certain parts of the station.

Ammonia is used because it only freezes at -170.6 degrees Fahrenheit, meaning that it won’t freeze when exposed to the outer side of the space station. The ammonia is used to transport any excess heat from the station into space, preventing the International Space Station from overheating.

What Do The Astronauts Eat On The ISS?

Astronauts onboard the International Space Station have to eat food a little differently from the way we do, here on earth.

When astronauts were first going to space, space food was stored in tubes, cubes, and freeze-dried powders, and wasn’t necessarily the most appetizing to eat. Nowadays, space food is a lot more similar to the food we eat here, on Earth - however, that doesn’t mean it’s exactly the same.

For example, bread isn’t a very good option for astronauts on the ISS, because bread makes a lot of mess when you eat it. The crumbs that might come off of the bread don’t just fall to the floor - the crumbs will float throughout the space station, causing a nuisance.

The alternative that NASA came up with for bread was to use tortillas. This is because tortillas don’t break up as much when eaten, and as a result, don’t make too much mess.

Any meat sent up for consumption on the space station has to be ‘irradiated’, meaning it is sterilized using ionizing radiation. This keeps the meat from spoiling.

Other foods can be freeze-dried, dehydrated, or low moisture with long shelf-lives, meaning they can be stored on the international space station without spoiling. Some food is rehydrated on the space station.

As well as this, the food is chosen with consideration for how much space it takes up, its nutritional content, the way it is packaged, and how it can contribute to the cultural identity of the astronauts consuming it - for example, if an American astronaut wants to share a PB and J tortilla with a Russian cosmonaut to retain a sense of identity and educate on their culture. 

Gordon Watts
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