UNITED24 - Make a charitable donation in support of Ukraine!


European Columbus laboratory on its way into space

Paris, 14 June 2003

Assembly of the International Space Station has come to a halt after the Columbia accident early in February this year. Although there will be delays in the further development of the station in space, preparation on Earth continues according to plan. The space station, 400 kilometres away from Earth and financed by 15 nations, is regarded as the most ambitious technology project ever in the history of man. Considering a total weight of about 450 tons, a size of 100 m x 80 m x 40 m and a usable interior volume of more than 1,000 m³, space station construction requires significant efforts. About 50 flights will be necessary to deliver the different components into space until the station and its laboratories will start operation in 2006. Since 31 October 2001, crews of three were permanently working aboard the International Space Station. As a consequence of the Columbia loss and the logistics difficulties resulting from the Shuttle fleet being grounded, the permanent crew onboard the space station was reduced to two in April 2003.

The multi-functional Columbus space laboratory will be ready for shipment to Kennedy Space Center by March 2004. In 1996, the European Space Agency ESA commissioned EADS SPACE Transportation with complete system development and integration of the Columbus laboratory, Europe's major contribution to this multinational project. EADS SPACE Transportation will supply Columbus at a contractually agreed fixed price of € 715 million. Through subcontracts, EADS SPACE Transportation distributes a large part of this amount to partner companies and small and medium-sized companies from various sectors.

Columbus integration according to plan

The primary structure, the "case" of Columbus, was built by the Italian partner Alenia Spazio (Turin) and delivered to EADS SPACE Transportation in September 2001. EADS SPACE Transportation is responsible for the equipment of the Columbus module as well as for carrying out all system tests required. Columbus is proceeding according to plan as can be seen from the current stage of integration: Energy supply systems, video equipment, the fail-safe data management system DMS (Data Management System), the environmental control and life support system ECLSS and the debris protection system have already been tested successfully. These components are scheduled for integration into the Columbus structure in summer this year. At the same time, ESA and NASA will start the Columbus Design Qualification Review. The "airworthiness" of the Columbus laboratory will be confirmed after successful completion of the review.

The concept of the Columbus module is based on the experience EADS SPACE Transportation gained in the development of Spacelab since the end of the seventies. Spacelab flew 22 Space Shuttle missions and had been in service until 1998.

Similar to Spacelab, the Columbus laboratory, which has a length of eight metres and a diameter of 4.5 metres, will be equipped with ten standardised payload racks to accommodate experiment equipment. In addition, there will be three system racks, which, for instance, will serve for water supply control, and three storage racks. Launch mass of Columbus will be almost 13 tons including a payload mass of 2.5 tons. The laboratory provides sufficient space for three crewmembers to carry out research under microgravity conditions. Columbus has a total service life of 15 years, which is consistent with the service life of the entire space station.

Columbus will allow scientists basic research in all fields of biotechnology, medical, materials, fluid and life science as well as experiments within the framework of applied technology projects which could hardly be carried out under gravity conditions on Earth. The reason: materials or fluids react differently in space than in laboratories on earth. Metallic alloys merge in space which would not form an optimum compound under gravity conditions. The same applies to liquid substances which quite easily form a mixture in space but which do not on Earth.

Scientific equipment for Columbus

EADS SPACE Transportation has been a renowned expert on the development and construction of experiment facilities for many decades. Biolab has being tested in Bremen since last May and will be integrated into the Columbus laboratory in October this year. Biolab is a facility allowing experiments on cells, tissue cultures, microorganisms, small plants and invertebrates. The European Drawer Rack experiment platform, the European Physiology Module (EPM) designed for human medicine projects and the Fluid Science Lab (FSL) will be integrated next. FSL will allow experiments in the field of fluid physics. The Protein Crystallisation and Diagnostic Facility (PCDF), the Advanced Protein Crystallisation Facility (APCF) and the Cardiolab (CL) are also intended for use in the Columbus laboratory but will be integrated after docking with the International Space Station.

Columbus facility for astronaut training

Once delivery and integration of the Columbus experiment facilities have been completed, final system testing will be performed in Bremen by the end of the year. Tests will comprise among others electrical, mechanical, thermal and life support system analyses.

During the current integration phase, a second Columbus facility for crew training on laboratory systems is being developed, which will be delivered to NASA's astronaut training centre in Houston early in July this year. The facility will be provided with the same simulator systems as are available in the first Columbus training facility being in operation in the European Astronauts Centre (EAC) in Cologne since September 2002. In addition to the development and supply of hardware components and systems, EADS SPACE Transportation is responsible for the astronauts' training on the systems of the Columbus laboratory and the ATV supply vehicle.

Data management systems for the space station

In addition to experiment facilities, the Columbus laboratory will be provided with an electronic "brain". The DMS data management system is a fail-safe computer system for which EADS SPACE developed essential components. DMS controls and monitors operation of all module systems such as thermal system, communications, life support and energy supply systems. The computer system is also provided with telemetry and telecommand interfaces ensuring communication with ground stations. This will allow system experts in the control centres in Houston (Texas, USA) and Oberpfaffenhofen (Bavaria, Germany) to monitor the laboratory systems and to take action, if necessary.

Under contract to ESA, EADS SPACE Transportation also developed the complete DMS-R data management system for the Russian service module Zvezda, which was launched in July 2000 and has been operating successfully since then. DMS-R features two so-called fault-tolerant computers, the specific system architecture of which ensures the highest safety possible with respect to space station operation. During the entire service life of the space station, DMS-R will control the attitude of the complex as well as docking manoeuvres of Russian supply capsules.

Robotic systems to support the astronauts

In order to be able to support the astronauts in the assembly and maintenance of exterior station elements during the construction and operational phase, several remote-controlled manipulator systems will be installed at structures and modules in the years to come. One of these systems is the European Robotic Arm, ERA, for which the EADS SPACE Transportation will supply essential systems such as end effectors and onboard computers. Another system is the Canadian robotic arm, which has already been attached to the station.
Experiment facilities for the space station

Under subcontract to NASA, EADS SPACE Transportation developed the medical system LBNP (Lower Body Negative Pressure Device). The LBNP, known as "negative-pressure pants" was already employed on the last Spacelab mission in 1998. The system allows medical scientists to examine the regulatory processes of the human cardiovascular system and to develop new methods to minimise disturbance of the astronauts' health during long missions under microgravity conditions. The LBNP was originally developed under contract to Deutsches Zentrum für Luft- und Raumfahrt (DLR, Cologne).

Under contract to ESA and DLR, EADS SPACE Transportation supplies additional experiment facilities for use in various station modules. These facilities comprise the Materials Science Laboratory (MSL), the Modular Cultivation System (MCS), the Refrigerator Freezer System (RFR) and the Cryo Freezer Rack (CFR) as well as the Microgravity Science Glovebox (MSG) designed for handling sensitive and toxic materials and substances. The MSG has been operating in the US module Destiny since 2002. Under contract to the French Space Agency CNES, EADS SPACE Transportation also supplies DECLIC experiment facilities for the fluid physics sector.

ATV - space station supply

The Automated Transfer Vehicle (ATV) is also an essential European contribution to the International Space Station. The ATV is a transport vehicle that carries up to 7.5 tons of supplies and propellants to the space station. Furthermore, the ATV will perform re-boost manoeuvres in regular intervals to lift up the space station which due to the residual atmosphere existing at an altitude of about 400 kilometres is descending time and time again. At the end of the mission, the ATV will pick up waste material from the station and undergo controlled burn-up during re-entry into the Earth's atmosphere. The ATV is the first space vehicle developed in Europe to carry out rendezvous and docking manoeuvres fully automatically. EADS SPACE Transportation is the industrial prime contractor for this new generation of European supply vehicles. The first ATV, called Jules Verne, will be launched by an Ariane 5 in September 2004. A total of eight ATVs will be built until 2013.

Paris/Le Bourget, June 2003

Your contacts:

Dr. Mathias Spude
Phone: +49-421-5 39 5710
Fax: +49-421-5 39 45 34
EADS SPACE Transportation

Kirsten Leung
Phone: +49-421-5 39 53 29
Fax: +49-421-5 39 45 34

Sophie Belaud
Phone: +33-5 56 57 37 16
Fax: +33-5 56 57 30 19

Join the GlobalSecurity.org mailing list