2008 will mark a tenth anniversary of initial construction the International Space Station (ISS) — multipurpose orbital research laboratory where Russia and the United States play a key role. The creation of the ISS has become the major project in the sphere of bilateral cooperation in the outer space discovery. Its construction and operation is the priority task of both Russian and American manned cosmonautics.

On January 29, 1998 was signed a multilateral Space Station Intergovernmental Agreement (IGA) in which besides Russia and the US participate Canada, Japan, the countries of the European Space Agency (ESA) and Brazil.
On November 20, the first segment of the Station — the Russian functional cargo block “Zarya” was delivered to the orbit from the Baikonur Cosmodrome. That was a starting point of the ISS operation in the orbit.

However the preparatory phase of the program was launched as early as on November 1, 1993. On that day the leaders of the Russian Space Agency and the US National Agency on Aeronautics and Space (NASA) signed an agreement “About the order of a permanent space station construction” in Moscow. At the same time, the first consultations between our space agencies were held, which laid groundwork for a detailed plan that shaped a general configuration of the Station, volumes and forms of the corresponding construction work. Contracts between the partner firms of the program - “Boeing” and Korolev “Energy” were concluded as well.

Later in March 1995 the sides set up a preliminary draft of the future orbital complex in Johnson Space Center (Houston, TX).

Assembling and maintaining the ISS is being accomplished with the help from Russian "Soyuz" and “Progress” space ships, as well as American space shuttles. Japan and ESA, in turn, construct their own transport systems, which are planned to be put in use at the final stage of the Station assembly. The preparation for the first launch of the European cargo ship ATV to the ISS is now underway. Japanese launch vehicle H-2 TV is to be put in operation in 2010.
Key stages of the ISS construction:

- The first section of the ISS became the “Zarya” functional cargo block, which was put into orbit on November 20, 1998 on a Russian “Proton K” rocket. The module is equipped with two jet engines for correction of the Station orbit and powerful solar batteries. At the request of the American side it was designed with antimicrometeor shield.
- On December 4, 1998 the space shuttle “Endeavor” delivered into space the first American module “Unity 1”. On December 7, 1998 it docked to “Zarya”.
- On July 12, 2000 was launched the Russian service module “Zvezda”, which docked to the ISS on July 26. “Zvezda” is the most complex and equipped module, constitutes the basis of the Russian segment of the Station. It is tooled up with complex equipment and provides conditions for vital activity for the crew up to six people.
- On November 2, 2000 — a Russian spacecraft “Soyuz TM-31” delivered onboard the crew of the first basic expedition. The crew was made up of captain W.Shepperd, pilot Y. Godzenko, flight engineer S. Krikalev.
- On February 10, 2001 — an American laboratory module “Destiny“ - the key element of the American segment of the Station was docked to the ISS.
- On July 14, 2001 an American universal airlock “Quest” was delivered to the ISS. It was designed for outer space walks both in American and Russian space-suits.
- On September 15, 2001 was launched the docking section-module “Pirs”, which forms the key element of the ISS Russian segment. It has the dual purpose and can be used as a sluice section for the outer space walks of two crew members, as well as an additional port for dockings to the manned ships of “Soyuz TM” type and automatic cargo ships of “Progress M” type.

Thus, as of the middle of 2007 the ISS has the following configuration: the functional load module “Zarya”, the service module “Zvezda”, the docking section- module “Pirs” (Russian segment), the modules “Unity”, “Destiny”, the lock chamber “Quest” and farms working on solar batteries (American segment). Orbital parameters are: the altitude is 350-460 km, the inclination of 51,6 degrees, the orbital period around the Earth - 91,23 min.

The final configuration and the schedule of the ISS assembly were approved in March 2006 at the meeting of the space agencies chiefs — participants in the ISS program (held annually). According to the agreed terms, the construction of the Station is to be completed in 2010. Before this time it is planned to put into orbit American module “Nod 2”, European space laboratory “Columbus”, Canadian manipulator of special designation “Dexter”, Japanese experimental laboratory “Kibo”, as well as Russian multifunctional laboratory module.

Nowadays intensive preparation for the development of the scientific studies program at the Station is underway, first of all, on the problems of subsistence and neutralization of negative influence of a prolonged stay in space of a human-being. Thereupon in the of spring 2009, it is planned to increase the crew up to 6 people due to the cosmonaut-researchers, who will be able to put into complete operation the scientific potential of the orbital complex in 2010.

The priorities of the Russian side in the ISS operation for scientific research include the following directions of the activity:

- the study of the Earth from space;
- the study of physical and biological processes under the condition of weightlessness and controlled gravity;
- astrophysical observations in particular the Station will be equipped the large complex of the solar telescopes;
- test of new materials and instruments for the work in outer space;
- finalizing the technology of assembling in orbit of complex systems, including with the use of robots;
- test of new pharmaceutical technologies and the experimental production of new preparations under the conditions of the micro-gravity;
- experimental production of semi conductive materials.

The calculated period of the ISS operation is 16 years. Taking into account the fact that the first module was launched into orbit in the end of 1989, formally its resource will be expired in 2015. However, according to the accumulated experience of the operation of Russian and American orbital complexes, they can continue successful work, after expiration of the operation period. In this connection the Russian side proposed to the partners in the project to review a question about the prolongation of the Station operation until 2020.