International Space Station (ISS) => ISS Section => Topic started by: punkboi on 09/25/2006 05:32 AM

Title: Space Station ALPHA?
Post by: punkboi on 09/25/2006 05:32 AM
Do you guys know if the International Space Station is still referred to with that name in some official circles?  Just wondering... Thanks
Title: RE: Space Station ALPHA?
Post by: lmike on 09/25/2006 05:47 AM
I believe some documents do refer to it in such a way (equivalent to space station Freedom -- some of its roots, another was Mir-2)  Pr. Reagan's heritage in a sense.  As some of the technology/hardware are direct descendants.  There were actually 3 options presented to Clinton for exactly "space station Alpha/Freedom"  A, B (proposed and presented by non other than Dr. Griffin) and C  A was chosen, and selected for funding with a single vote deciding.
Title: Re: Space Station ALPHA?
Post by: Jim on 09/25/2006 11:13 AM
Itsn't in the the official agreements since the Russians take offense to it.  The 1st Expedition crew tried to get it formalized but it never caught on
Title: RE: Space Station ALPHA?
Post by: punkboi on 09/25/2006 04:56 PM
Interesting...thanks.  Yea, I noticed that the ISS was only called Alpha by NASA and the media during the station's first two years of habitation (2000 and '01)
Title: Re: Space Station ALPHA?
Post by: spacedreams on 09/25/2006 08:45 PM
MCC-Houston uses Alpha as the call sign for ISS
Title: RE: Space Station ALPHA?
Post by: Jeff Bingham on 09/26/2006 03:39 AM
Need to do some further checking to complete the "story" but these are some observations:

On June 8th 1993, the Vest Committee, charge with providing recommendations on space station redesign, briefed the House Sience Subcommittee on Space on the three options it had considered, but did not indicate what its recommendation would be to the President.  The next day the full Science Committee completed action on its NASA Authorization Bill, which included language authorizing the Space Station Freedom program, which still existed at that point, and reported it to the House for action. The Committee Report included language saying that the Committee preferred Option B, which it described as the "Freedom-derived" option which preserved much of the $8 billion spent to that point on Freedom.

The next day, on June 10th, the Vest Committee made its report to the President, recommending that either Option A or Option C be considered, but NOT Option B. The following week, on June 17th, President Clinton issued a statement saying he supported continuation of the space station program, using a variation of Option A and some elements of Option B and was directing his staff to work with NASA, the International Partners, and the Congress, over the next ninety days to come up with a consensus on a space station redesign which also included the possibility of including the Russians as a new partner in the program.

As a result, when the House considered and debated the NASA Authorization Act (HR 2200) on June 23rd, there was still no clear definition of the actual design. During the debate on June 23rd, Representatibe Tim Roemer (D-IN) offered an amendment to terminate the space station, which was defeated by a vote of 215-216. On Monday of the following week, June 28th, the House began consideration of the appropriations, or spending bill, which included NASA funding, and provided full funding for the space station Freedom program. Once again, Mr. Roemer offered an amendment to terminate the space station, and was again defeated, by a vote of 196-220, a somewhat wider margin than the 1-vote margin the week before. Part of the reason for the close votes in both cases was the fact that there was still no clear idea of what the design would actually be.

Finally, on September 9th, the Space Station Transition Report was issued, which was entitled "Russian Alpha," which outlined the proposed redesign using such Russian-provided elements as the Mir II base block as the initial control and propulsion module for the station. (I have a hard copy of that report around here somewhere in a box.) That was the first formal reference to "Alpha' as being associated with the space station configuration. I must add that there was considerable concern in the Senate, which was about to consider its version of NASA's spending bill, about the extent of Russian involvement in the new design, and language was included in that bill which restricted the availability of space station funds until that design was refined and understood to the satisfaction of the Senate. (An amendment by Senator Dale Bumpers to terminate the space station in the Senate debate was defeated on September 21st by a vote of 40-59.)

It wasn't until November that the discussions among the space station partners was complete and they extended the invitation to Russia to join the space station program. Meantime, the Space Station Program Office in Reston Virginia was closed and the project was moved to Johnson Space Center in Houston, Texas.

The organization chart for the relocated office (attached) illustrates the use of "Alpha" in the name of the program: "International Space Station Alpha."  Astronaut Bill Shepherd was Acting Program manager, and subsequently became Deputy Program Manager, in charge of vehicle development. After a couple of years as "ISSA" the "Alpha" was dropped from the program name...I need to do some more checking on the timing of all of that.

Shep, meantime, had returned to active astronaut status to train to be the first Commander of the space station. When he arrived aboard the ISS in November 2000, his first call to Houston was from "Alpha"...a unilateral decision he made to assign that radio call-sign to the space station--which caused no small consternation for NASA Administrator Dan Goldin, by the way. There is much more to the whole story, about when and how it stopped being used as a frequent reference, but I don't have all that at my disposal at the moment. Hopefully, this "little" overview of some of the early events will be of interest.
Title: Re: Space Station ALPHA?
Post by: punkboi on 09/26/2006 06:33 AM

spacedreams - 25/9/2006 1:28 PM MCC-Houston uses Alpha as the call sign for ISS

Oh yea, I forgot about that

Title: RE: Space Station ALPHA?
Post by: Jeff Bingham on 09/26/2006 11:22 AM
By February 1995 the word "Alpha" was dropped from formal usage in the program name, as can be seen in the cover page of a presentation to new Members of the Congress, attached.
Title: Re: Space Station ALPHA?
Post by: Mark Nguyen on 09/26/2006 05:03 PM
So.. Is it true that the Russians don't like "Alpha" as it implies "first", which they consider to be innaccurate?

Title: Re: Space Station ALPHA?
Post by: Jim on 09/26/2006 05:04 PM
Title: RE: Space Station ALPHA?
Post by: Suzy on 09/27/2006 09:54 PM
I like the name "Space Station Aurora" myself - it is a lot nicer than boring old Alpha  :)
Title: Re: Space Station ALPHA?
Post by: astrobrian on 09/28/2006 01:49 AM
Not only first, but Alpha could also be misinterprited as to mean the alpha xyz of all stations basically saying it was better than anything they had.
Title: RE: Space Station ALPHA?
Post by: Suzy on 09/28/2006 06:36 AM

More on the naming of Alpha (from Beyond Where The Sky Meets The Dawn at


There were some aspects of naval tradition that Shepherd planned to commence the moment he arrived. Ships of exploration always have a name, and the space station had gone through a large number of possible titles over the decades without any real decision being made. In a Navy tradition built on thousands of years of human seafaring, Shepherd felt the station should be named as early as possible, to bring success to the voyage and good luck to the crew. Having pressed for a decision to be made for years before the flight, he decided to take matters into his own hands once onboard. Krikalev agreed with his choice of "Alpha" - it was neither Russian nor English, instead going back to the common root of both languages. In Greek mythology, it was the high point to which humans could ascend to achieve contact with the heavens. In the first few hours aboard the station, Shepherd put NASA's Administrator, Dan Goldin, on the spot with a request to name the station. Goldin grudgingly agreed that Alpha could be the call sign for the duration of Shepherd's stay.


(But I still think the name Alpha is boring!  :)  )

Title: Re: Space Station ALPHA?
Post by: Jeff Bingham on 09/28/2006 10:14 AM
Suzy, thanks for that link! The article is terrific and provides great insights into Shep's thinking, who is a remarkable guy. It also underscores the fact that the "Alpha" designation was more an individual preference of the first commander of the space station than any sort of competitive historical symbolism.
Title: Re: Space Station ALPHA?
Post by: dutch courage on 09/28/2006 11:05 AM
During the Change of Command Ceremony yesterday L.A. also mentioned the name Alpha twice.
Title: Re: Space Station ALPHA?
Post by: jclemons on 01/31/2018 03:14 PM
I know this is a long-dead thread, but I interviewed NASA Administrator Dan Goldin last year, and this is what he had to say about it:

>> And it got named International Space Station, boo hoo. I love Space Station Alpha. I invented the name with Bill Shepherd.

>> Oh, it was the administration that took it away from you?

>> No, no one took it away. No one took it away. There was a real desire to show the people of the world coming together and calling it the International Space Station when we had 16 countries build it. It was probably the right thing to do. But I'm a science fiction geek, and Station Alpha seemed great. This is Station Alpha; Station Beta might have been on Mars. Station Gamma might have been on an asteroid or a comet. So I'm a space geek, but it was the right thing to do. Bill Shepherd would argue with that point.

Title: Re: Space Station ALPHA?
Post by: dsobin on 01/31/2018 05:50 PM
Welcome to the Forum! Great first post!

I enjoyed that little bit of history. I'm glad you added your post the original thread. That's real history.