Spaceflight Insider

International agencies open deep-space operating standards for public comment

The ISS as seen from the final departing Space Shuttle in 2011, STS-135. Photo Credit: NASA

The International Space Station as seen from the final departing Space Shuttle in 2011, STS-135. Photo Credit: NASA

On March 1, 2018, NASA, ESA, and the other partnering International Space Station (ISS) agencies opened their joint International Deep Space Interoperability Standards for public comment. The documents could further global cooperation on crewed space exploration efforts beyond Earth orbit by setting common standards for projects like NASA’s planned Lunar Orbital Platform-Gateway.

Applying lessons learned from the ISS

The development of joint standards for deep space exploration began with practices established on the ISS. It is hoped that these initiatives could help ensure that companies and agencies design and build compatible hardware for Moon bases and other facilities. The activities covered by the standards include communication, life support, power, rendezvous, external robotics, and thermal systems.

According to NASA, the goal of standardization is to support hardware commonality without dictating design features beyond those required for systems to operate with each other.

“Contributions from the global community will improve the quality of the interoperability standards and help enable development of the systems necessary to meet global exploration goals,” said William Gerstenmaier, the associate administrator for NASA’s Human Exploration and Operations Mission Directorate, in an agency news release. “Having compatible hardware will allow differing designs to operate with each other. This could allow for crew rescue missions and support from any spacecraft built to these standards.”

This international approach to human space flight systems has already been used on the space station’s International Docking System Standard, the Space Launch System Mission Planner’s Guide, and the cross-program Design Specification for Natural Environments. The comment period will feed inputs into a final baseline version of the standards that will be released sometime in the summer of 2018.




Bart Leahy is a freelance technical writer living in Orlando, Florida. Leahy's diverse career has included work for The Walt Disney Company, NASA, the Department of Defense, Nissan, a number of commercial space companies, small businesses, nonprofits, as well as the Science Cheerleaders.

Reader Comments

Clive Bashford

The need for common standards was starkly illustrated during the Apollo 13 mission. The astronauts had to improvise an adaptor so that the Command Module CO2 scrubbers, which were square, could be used in the Lunar Module whose scrubbers were round.

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