How the Space Station Moves In Orbit Like A Spaceship

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Many people don’t realise that the International Space Station is also a space ship, able to maneuver in space as required by mission operations. It has thrusters and control moment gyros to control its orientation and adjust its orbit.

I could have explaind this with CGI, I could have used KSP
Instead I decided to use my LEGO model of the ISS as a prop:
The LEGO ISS is available on Amazon and other online retailers.

  1. Tjalve

    So first you’re telling us how incredibly difficult it is to fly safe. And then you’re telling us to fly safe, and expect us to be able to do it on our own.
    I’m not up for that task! I can’t do it!

  2. Robin Marquardt

    3:35 why can’t You slow down one gyro at a time and realign it before spinning it up again? No thrusters needed

  3. Anna Fraley

    W O W . . . That was a LOT of complicated information ℹ️ I would have Never imagined.
    So yes, it Definitely is a Space ship, I will never look at it the same anymore. AND am glad I didn’t have to have all of that memorized in my head 😎👍✅

  4. David Adams

    Bloody hell! Sounds like rocket science! Very interesting.

  5. Spag The Maker

    I’d love to see a deep dive on the ISS control system architecture. What networks (if any!) connect the external craft to the ISS guidance systems? I can’t imagine it’s astronauts yelling “just a little more!” down the hall.

  6. Bill Kerr

    I remember long ago when metal shavings were found in at least one gearbox driving solar panel orientation. This was before the internet was in my home. Did anything ever come of that. Were any gearboxes replaced?

  7. crowdozer

    ya know I never thought about it but “station” is a bit of an oxymoron for these orbital labs, all things considered

  8. samson rene

    Can we sign a petition to make Scott Manley the new NASA administrator in the Biden Presidency?

  9. Sean Rogers

    wow thanks much appreciated, motion- motion is interesting one can move and not know it, well today i also think i embarresed myself for answereing nothing, from now on in public iam going to limet answereing nothing, and this is interesting.

  10. Nellis Falcon

    It would be nice, if you pronounced russian modules’ names correctly.

  11. Tomychron

    8:12 Did you just flip me the finger?!

  12. Sadiq Mohamed

    I had no idea how big the CMGs were until you showed the shot of the spare with an astronaut. They are big!

  13. Tinkering in Thailand

    The ISS should have a holodeck like in Star trek, that would be so cool ;)

  14. Eric Lotze


    Earthquakes… i n s p a c e

  15. Aidan Giljum

    WAIT is the lego ISS a set?

  16. vexx80000

    Oh god, there’s no way I would be able to handle the station flexing at 10:30. I thought that only happened in KSP 😮

  17. Worldsedge

    This is an interesting one, thanks.

  18. Revermen

    I too saw” Valerion and the city of a thousand planets”

  19. Wim Beckers

    I am scared to even look at my Lego ISS model since it is so fragile, the way you swing it gives me anxiety :D

  20. Svetlin Totev

    10:30 omg this probably feels sooo familiar to anyone who as built big stations in KSP :D

  21. Zoé Bőle

    So, lot of these attached thrusters look like they’re out of line with the center of gravity… Don’t they then need to spend extra fuel with attitude control to cancel their torque out?

  22. Nivola 1953

    This is one of the most interesting piece on the ISS, I’ve learned many new facts, thanks Scott.
    About the debate if it a space ship or not, this is my check list comparing it to a cargo seafaring ship:
    1) go about the surface of the Earth in space or water, check
    2j can change course and speed (slowly and carefully), check
    3) can perform docking, check
    4) transport goods and people, check
    5) have sides identified as port and starboard, check
    6) everybody (except FEer) believe it exists lol, check
    7) Lego makes models of it, check
    HEY it’s a “space”ship.

  23. David AE Levy

    Scott, my question I can’t find the answer to is… what was that “unknown” space debri a few days ago? What was the likely source or rather how long has that debri been in orbit?

  24. woodbyte

    It’s a spaceship sure, but the really lame kind like DS9.

  25. M W

    Hey Scott back when the shuttles were flying would the off gassing from the three apu’s effect the orbit requiring correction burns?

  26. John Fife

    A dedicated space tug is needed. Without one, these guys will never make warp.

  27. -Yuri -

    tbh I got overhyped by you announcing the 3 hours rdv by soyouz
    I’m amazed ! Can’t quite contain my excitemen

  28. Carl Williams

    I can just imagine the flat earther’s brain exploding throughout this amazing video.

  29. Andrew Priest

    Love the SA Corey (Expanse) books on the shelf in the background.

  30. kirk creelman

    Jimbles are my favourite part of the turkey.

  31. Video Preview

    As to gyros failing, saw interesting articles that indicated high energy particles in space caused electrostatic arcing on the bearings. An interesting problem!

  32. Tim L

    Melted cmg’s remind me of Star Trek constantly pushing the engineering team a little further than they should.

  33. Keegan Penney

    Coincidentally my coworker and I were discussing this yesterday lol

    Actually we were curious about how they pump or distribute fuel threwout the ISS. We figured it must be always a nail biting experience

  34. Ed Ki

    A thousands of a g? Gives me serious realism overhaul ion engine vibes

  35. Hypervious

    I love how the model playing with the ISS on the Amazon page is a grown man.

  36. Krsanth -

    “How the Space Station Moves In Orbit……” Carefully.

  37. raceguitar

    A quick question, is there an astronaut designated “Pilot” on board at all times who makes the ultimate decisions when the station needs to be ‘flown’ or is everything so automated that would be redundant?

  38. Dave B

    I am curious if the bearing failures are along the line of diagnosis I’ve heard with bearing failures in the Hubble space telescope. They have determined that metallic bearings and balls are susceptible to electromagnetic emissions from the sun, which introduce eddy currents in the metallic parts. These currents are fairly intense at times, and can cause sparking between the parts. This in turn causes tiny “welds” or burns in the surface of the bearing surfaces, pitting them which only enlarge over time, eventually making the gyro inoperative as the bearings no longer roll smoothly. Ceramic bearings were found to be immune as they don’t generate the eddy currents.

  39. Noxie

    Lego, one of those rare toys that surpassed their original purpose.

    A bit like the VW bus transmission (?) joint that became the most popular dog toy !

    I wish you all the best!❤️

  40. alex Marshall

    You ARE Scott Manley and whenever we do, we endeavour to fly safe…was that Lego or summink else like l”Ego… fly safe!! 👉👁️👁️👁️👈

  41. Julien Guieu

    3:03 Introducing Scott Manley, god-like being.

  42. walter park

    ‘What was that?!’
    ‘Finger of god force.’

  43. GhostHostMemories

    14:30, i guess they forgot to check their staging?

  44. gajbooks

    The docking procedeure is very reminiscent of how I dock in KSP. Always disable SAS right before contact, and make sure one of the spacecraft is just holding attitude.

  45. RocketSurgeon

    If it doesn’t have a pointy nose and fins it’s not a *real* spaceship.

  46. Tetsujin

    16:25 – Tell me who you are, and compliment my extremely beautiful and stylish vault.

  47. Selmokk

    Imagine having 2 spare CMGs on station, just to find out they’ve been eroded by radiation so much that when you install them, dust-sized shrapnel from the bearings and wheels inside instantly takes them out 😄 that would be a bummer

  48. dreedee

    This was awesome, I was on the Oculus Quest with Mission: ISS looking at the parts and hearing Scott describing! what a delight.!

  49. Shrike DeCil

    “And when Starship docks…”

  50. Vincent Cleaver

    I remember when my buddy had a problem with the station in deep space 9 moving in the pilot. Station keeping, not stationary, yo…

  51. novictorya

    I have a feeling Scott made this video just to flex his ISS Lego model

  52. IASOU2005

    I’ve heard the opening quindar tone check conversation to this channel before. It was Houston testing the global phone line/ long wave radio communications hardware with one of the repeater stations in Australia used to broadcast out to the Apollo spacecraft.
    The radio operator in Houston would simply say to the station in Australia, “1-2-3-4-5-5-4-3-2-1 end of test”‘with a quindar open tone/close tone between each number.

  53. Ursa_minor 1234

    Last time I was this early starhopper was about to fly

  54. longlakeshore

    If I remember correctly Skylab had three large reaction wheels (non-gimbaled gyros) – one on each axis – which NASA used to orient the station. Unfortunately it took a command/service module (CSM) to raise its orbit. If they hadn’t used the last CSM on the Apollo-Soyuz mission perhaps it could have been used to boost Skylab high enough to stay in orbit until the Space Shuttle finally flew.

  55. AgiHammerthief

    „let me show you it’s features“ … missed opportunity

  56. Steve Kasian

    Hey Scott: Has anyone ever told you that you look a lot like “FPS Doug”??
    Pure Pwnage!

  57. Brian M

    That’s a spaceship- and if my grandmother had wheels, she’d be a wagon.

  58. Random Lurker

    6:50 TIL that turning off the SAS during docking to prevent attracting the Kraken is legit in real life too.

  59. metalfaceplates

    8:13 Anyone else catch Scott Manley flipping the bird off at us!! Lol Well played Scott, well played. Haha

  60. gijbuis

    ” These ‘little things’ (the Control Moment Gyros) are steering a 420 ton space station…” and by the way, this space station is racing around the earth at a speed of 27,576 km/hr….

  61. Supersonic Tumbleweed

    Oh my, the piping must be a pain if they move the propellant that far

  62. Towers

    Does the Space Station flex a measurable amount when maneuvering? I imagine it’s designed to be very stiff

  63. TechyBen

    I’ve tried this with noodly KSP craft. It never ends well. XD

  64. Red Pand4

    “NASA always has its plans figured out” can I get that on a t shirt? Lol

  65. Nils Jakobson

    When those CMDs failed they had to kick the space station out of alignment.

  66. Andrew Ballard

    Who actually has control over the ISS? The people on the station or ground control, or a mix of the two?

  67. Kineth1

    8:10 “might adjust from its normal orientation”
    Scott might want to think about what his hands are saying when he’s using his hands to talk.

  68. GlitterJuice

    plug in a module that’s actually a rocket booster, and take it to mars orbit.

  69. nagualdesign

    I’m curious, what effect does all this manoeuvring have on all the microgravity experiments?

  70. D A Gordon

    Kinda makes you wonder how Sci-Fi stations like Starfleet Earth Spacedock work…

  71. michael papadopoulos

    3:04 Scott manley subtly confirming that he is, in fact, a god, who has taken our form in order to teach us how to become a type 3 civilisation.

  72. Jonathan Moothart

    Important question: have you ever sat down and played with this? like, pretended to dock the shuttle or anything? cause I would hands down do that

  73. saxus

    So, more Lego, but the Saturn V is still in wrong position. (The black dots should be faced to the LUT).

  74. Adam Allman

    Sounds like what I do in KSP after docking, turn off RCS to keep out of orientation docking from occurring.

  75. Frik Na luzie

    Thanks Scott – now i know that ISS can fly safe and how :)

  76. coconinoco

    ““I’m Scott Manley, fly slightly tipsy!”


    What follows should be prefaced with “If I recall correctly…”

    I remember seeing a video quite a while ago talking about why the bearings failed on the Hubble and the early reaction wheels on the station. They were made of metal balls running in metal races. With the radiation and electromagnetism they experience on orbit, there would occasionally be static discharges from one component to another causing micro-welding and pitting of the balls and races. After some time in use the pitting would get so bad that the bearing would fail.

    The problem has been solved by replacing the metal balls in the new bearings with nonconductive ceramic. No more arcing, no more micro-welding. And no more problem.

  78. Choco Later

    I would like to see a dedicated video by Scott about a relationships between ESA, NASA and Roscosmos and other space agencies.
    Here is what I am interested in:
    How and why decisions are made to plan and execute missions.
    How arguments/different intentions between agencies are being handled.
    How does finances work to run this project.
    Who has a final/strongest say about ISS.
    And so on.

  79. Roonasaur

    Why does “Fly Safe” sometimes sound like a threat? lol

  80. LazyLife IFreak

    I like how Scott emphases *Fly safe* as the 420 tons space station hurtles through space at insane speeds, dodging specs of paint with the same power as bullets.

  81. Matthew Collier

    As a Canadian I love hearing Scott call the Canadarm the Canadarm rather than “the robotic arm”

  82. Francois Leveille

    To anyone who watches ‘The Expanse’, remember the expression ‘a beer can with rockets strapped to it’ ? In space, everything is a space ship if you have propulsion.

  83. Patrick's Music

    I think Scott was just looking for a reason to show off his Lego ISS lol

  84. Christopher Van Meier

    No, No, No! The desert side of the bay!

  85. William Mulreed

    Mission control can just terminate any debris that would pose a threat to the staton

  86. Michael Frey

    0:40 “I can now justify why lego is on my buisness expenses”

  87. djolley61

    The Vulcans pop in every ten years or so to see how we’re doing. They see the ISS and say, nope, not ready for contact yet.

  88. Hans Piccolo

    “I have a lego model of ISS”. The joy on his face is so real and beatiful. That’s what man needs. No sex. Just LEGOs.

  89. Aubrey Freeman

    Commander: “Brace for turbulence.”
    Crew: “Sir we’re in space.”
    Admiral Adama: “No listen to him.”

  90. Rey’s Aviation

    Scott just elevated himself to a god-like being

  91. ZP

    Its pronounced “zvezdA”, emphasis is on A. Means “star” in russian (but Scott probably knew that).

  92. Gareeb Scientist

    Gives insight when I create the follow up to my Indian Space Station video. Thank you

  93. Nuovoswiss

    If anyone needs a stock photo of Scott to use in an article or something, just pause at 8:13 and take a screencap. LOL

  94. Daniel Cook

    damn that resonant vibration of the station is terrifying, usually space footage is pretty sanitized with happy astronauts, that was something like you’d see in a horror movie

  95. NMCCW

    Today I found out the Russians drive the ISS. I hope it has a good dash cam. :)

  96. Alex Rempel

    So the Kraken attacked the station in 2009? They should have checked their auto struts..

  97. dee mond

    My 5 year old son was trying to take pictures of the ISS last night! He will be thrilled to watch this and learn more, many thanks Scott.
    Edit: Oh no! My kid will see your model is lego, then I’ll have to get it. Probably build it too. Tough life as a dad :)

  98. AngleSideSideThm

    The “momentum management” attitude has a name: TEA (Torque Equilibrium Attitude). The ISS is “flown” in a way that compromises between atmospheric drag, drag torque, power, and thermal requirements.

  99. Jason Du Ban

    So it’s a spaceship with utterly awful propulsion, the way an oil rig is an utterly awful jet ski.

  100. Donald Gisselbeck

    Old joke: when a famous admiral arrived on the bridge, he would unlock a drawer, take out a piece of paper, look at it, put it back and relock the drawer. He died unexpectedly and the first thing his subordinates did was open the drawer. The piece of paper said “port is left, starboard is right”.

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