Make your own International Space Station (ISS) with a free paper model kit!

Do you know what a Zarya is?  How about a Truss, Dextre, Kiba, Zvezda or Cupola?  Well, these are all parts of the International Space Station (ISS), which is a large structure in outer space, that orbits the Earth, and is full of scientist/astronauts all the time.  ISS is an ongoing collaboration between many nations around the world to develop new space technology and engage in collaborative space research.

ISS paper model

Make your own ISS model just like this one at home with 3 pieces of printed paper, some scissors, double sided tape, paper glue and some patience!

Here’s a fun FREE  (or just about free) activity you can try at home, with elementary/middle school aged children.

By making your own model, you can learn more about the International Space Station (ISS), its different sections, and what their functions are.  It can also help you learn more about references in our newest Galactic Academy of Science book, the Secret Case of the Space Station Stowaways.

There are a number of freely available paper models out there, some of which are more complicated than other, and some of which are black and white or full color.  NASA and other space agencies offer them for free on their websites.  One that we enjoy the most is this one from CSIRO, which is Austratlia’s space agency: .  Below are some pictures from our build process, as well as a few tips that are not available in their instruction guide.  We hope you enjoy it too!

ISS Paper Model

Carefully cut around each piece – be sure and cut within the yellow area, as close to the black lines as you can…

ISS Paper Model

Here you see the large solar panels, which are on the third page. Somr printers we noticed had a hard time printing this page. If that’s the case, don’t worry, usually at least 3 panels will print just fine. You can always print a few more pages, and cut out the good ones. Note that we used double sided sticky tape to make the panels, instead of glue, to avoid the warping that glue causes.

ISS Paper Model

Note here that we cut within the yellow area, but it’s actually better to cut almost on the black line, becuase when you’re folding these parts, the yellow area can get in the way a bit. Expect to do some trimming later on!

ISS Paper Model

Now you’ve got a whole bunch of parts. Be sure not to sneeze!

ISS Paper Model

The parts are coming together. One big tip here: the two zig zag folded parts in the center are ISS radiator panels. This model only comes with one side. But if you print out Page 2 twice, then you can cut out these radiator parts and glue or tape (w/double sided tape) them together front to back and you’ll have a nicer looking model!

ISS Paper Model

See here why it is very important to remove the yellow around some circular areas – it can look pretty bad. But you can always go back and trim these areas carefully and reglue them later on. Note here that we use an old piece of tissue or paper towel to hold the parts together while gluing so they don’t move around too much.

ISS Paper Model

It’s coming together! It’s best to glue part by part rather than a lot of parts at once, because they can slip and then you’ll have to rip them apart or redo them. It’s a long process, but hopefully if you have something like an Elmer’s wood or All Purpose/equivalent glue, each part should be nearly dry within a minute or so, if you only use a small spot of glue.

ISS Paper Model

Here is the nearly finished ISS, drying on top of a cardboard toilet paper tube, which can also be used as a mount, for display later on. We simply bent part of the tube in in two areas, so the main part of the ISS has a round place to rest. You can glue the ISS label and credits to the front of the tube and it will look like a wonderful disply piece!

Happy paper model building!

And be sure and learn more about ISS through our book, The Secret Case of the Space Station Stowaways:

The Secret Case of the Space Station Stowaways

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Mar 4, 2016 | Posted by in About, Meteorite, Physics, Space, Space Exploration | Comments Off