Zarya Control Module

The launch, in November 1998,
of the Russian module Zarya (meaning
“Sunrise”) marked the
start of construction of this
new scientific and
technological marvel which will evolve at
an altitude of 400 kilometers.

Zarya is the Russian term for “sunrise”. This appropriately named command module marked the beginning of the International Space Station when it was launched by a Russian Proton rocket on November 20, 1998 and became the first piece of this great mechanic to orbit. It was first placed in an elliptical orbit between 184 kilometers and 352 kilometers above sea level, to then reach a circular orbit at 384 kilometers, in preparation for rendezvous operations.

Zarya, also known as the energy module (FGB), was built between 1994 and 1998 by the Khrunitchev Space Center in Moscow as part of a subcontract with Boeing on behalf of NASA. It is a 21 tonne module which is 12.5 meters long and has a wingspan of 4 meters. Its expected operational life is at least 15 years.

Once in orbit, Zarya served as the primary link between the Space Station and Earth. It was also the Station’s first source of energy, with its solar panels and six nickel-cadmium batteries providing an electrical supply of 3 kilowatts. The module has side docking ports that can be used by Russian Soyuz manned craft and Progress remotely resupply vehicles. As the ISS assembly progresses, Zarya’s initial functions will be transferred to other parts of the Station, and it will then serve primarily as a passageway, docking port, and fuel storage. .

Zarya builds on Russia’s rich space experience with human spaceflight. This experience has been gained over the decades since April 1961, when cosmonaut Yuri Gagarin became the first man to tear himself away from the pull of Earth and orbit the planet in 108 minutes at an altitude of 302 kilometers. Since then, Russia has developed unique skills, especially in the field of long-term flights. No less than 16 cosmonauts have indeed spent a cumulative total of more than a year in space, aboard the Mir orbital station or other devices.

Zarya reminds us that the Space Station, our stepping stone to the stars, is the most ambitious science and technology enterprise in history. And Zarya, built by Russians and Americans as the initial module of an international project involving Canada and 15 other countries, is also an eloquent symbol of the will of the world’s space powers to put science and technology at the service of international cooperation.

Canadian technology was also an integral part of this historic first launch. The Canadian Space Vision System (CSVS) was used for the operations of joining the Russian Zarya module to the American laboratory and to the Pressurized Mating Adapters (PMA). To accomplish this task, special black targets that are part of the CSVS have been installed on Zarya as well as on Unity and PMAs. The Shuttle and Station telecameras serve as sensors for the CSVS. These cameras are pointed at special targets placed on the object to be tracked. As the object moves, the Vision System detects changes in the position of targets, calculates the location and orientation of the object and provides this data to the operator in the form of graphical and textual guides. Canada will participate in the positioning of some 600 CSVS targets at various locations on the Station. These targets enhance the performance of the Canadian contribution to the ISS, the Mobile Servicing System.

In the right portion of the image,
we can see the targets of the
Canadian Space Vision System installed
on Zarya. This Canadian element
played a crucial role in
connecting the Zarya and
Unity modules , the first two elements of
the International Space Station.

The CSVS will provide astronauts with precise data on the position and orientation of large objects they manipulate or dock with Canadian robots, making their operations more efficient and safer. The Shuttle and Station telecameras serve as sensors for the Canadian Space Vision System. These cameras are pointed at special targets placed on the object to be tracked. The image on the left shows the location of the targets installed on the Zarya module as they can be seen from the front of the Station. The targets located on the port side of Unity can be seen in the image on the right.

The Zarya module is also equipped with an electromagnetic terminal (PDGF). This Canadian-made technological element will allow the robot arm of the Mobile Maintenance System (SSRMS, for Space Station Remote Manipulator System) to move to various points of the Station where other terminals will be installed. This device allows a robotic manipulator, such as the Canadarm, to grab and maneuver a payload. The electromagnetic terminals will be located in various places on the Station and can serve as anchoring devices or as a gripper for the Remote Manipulator (SSRMS). These terminals are also used to transfer the energy and data that astronauts need to do their jobs.