From the International Space Station tracker to watching it live: The ISS explained

The International Space Station has been in orbit for 7,000 days and will soon mark its 20th year in space. Here's all you need to know about the ISS.

The International Space Station (ISS) marked its 7,000th day in orbit on January 19. The first module was launched into space in November, 1998, you can track it and watch it live from Earth

The ISS is a spacecraft and research laboratory that orbits earth at an altitude of around 220 miles and is home to up to six astronauts at a time. The spacecraft has a modular structure which has been added to over the years. 

[Read more: Take a guided tour of the International Space Station]

The station is divided into two sections, the Russian Orbital Segment, which hosts Russian cosmonauts, and the United States Orbital Segment, which has welcomed astronauts from 16 different nations including the only British astronaut, Tim Peake. 


How big is the International Space Station?

The ISS measures 109m long by 73m wide, making it slightly larger than a football field. 

and it caters for up to six spacemen and women to live. In terms of weight it’s pretty hefty – coming in at 450 tons.

You can explore it using the link above with the European Space Agency’s 360-degree view.

Who runs the International Space Station?

A consortium of international space agencies run the ISS. The principal agencies are from the US, Russia, Europe, Japan and Canada – Nasa, Roscosmos, ESA, Jaxa and CSA. Astronauts from the space agencies of Brazil, Malaysia, South Korea and Kazakhstan have also visited the ISS.

[Read more: ISS makes 100,000th orbit of Earth]

What do the astronauts do on board?

The crew of the ISS work in a microgravity laboratory for about 35 hours each week, conducting research to help advance scientific knowledge.

The ISS is also helping to pave the way for the commercialisation of market in low-earth orbit.

International Space Station tracker

The ISS orbits earth every 90 minutes at speeds of 17,500 mph (28,000kph). To see where it is right now, take a look at the ISS tracker developed by the European Space Agency (ESA).

When can I see the International Space Station?

Usually you can go to to see where the ISS is at the moment. However, because the US government is in lockdown over federal funding, that site is currently closed.

An alternative is where you can type in your location and see the visible flights of the ISS during the next 10 days.  

International Space Station Live


To see incredible images of the earth from the ISS, you can go to  

Using four different cameras attached to the ISS and pointed at earth you can see beautiful images of our planet, like the one above.