European high technology for the International Space Station
ILA/Berlin, Bremen, 10 May 2004
Assembly of the International Space Station has come to a halt after the Columbia accident early last year. Although there will be a delay of at least 24 months in the further assembly 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 tonnes, 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 40 flights will be still necessary to deliver the different components into space until assembly of the station and its laboratories will be completed in 2008. The station is designed for a service life of at least ten years. 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. In the final assembly phase the permanent crew will consist of six astronauts.
The multi-functional Columbus space laboratory will be ready for shipment to Kennedy Space Center by March 2006. 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 more than 60% of this amount to partner companies and small and medium-sized companies from various sectors.
Launch postponement allows additional integration work on Columbus
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. The Columbus laboratory has been completely integrated by now. 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 were tested and installed in the Columbus structure. After successful completion of the so-called Columbus Design Qualification Review, ESA and NASA confirmed the "airworthiness" of the Columbus laboratory in summer last year.
Launch postponement allows to carry out additional testing and integration work at EADS's facilities in Bremen, Germany, until delivery of the Columbus laboratory scheduled for early 2006. Measures will include testing and integration of external payload on the external platform (balcony) of Columbus, installation and removal of a US rack (Human Research Facility) as well as two end-to-end system validation tests (scheduled for the middle of 2004/end of 2005). These tests are intended to check the data and communication links between Columbus and the mission control centres in Germany and the United States (Oberpfaffenhofen, Bavaria, and Houston, Texas) in real time.
The concept of the Columbus module is based on the experience EADS SPACE Transportation gained in the development and construction of Spacelab since the end of the 1970s. 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 tonnes including a payload mass of 2.5 tonnes. The laboratory provides sufficient space for three crewmembers to carry out research under microgravity conditions. Columbus is designed for a total service life of 15 years.
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 was the first facility to be integrated into Columbus in Bremen. 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) were 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
After integration of the Columbus experiment facilities was completed, final system testing was performed in Bremen until the end of last year. Testing comprised among other things electrical, mechanical, thermal and life support system analyses.
Parallel to the integration phase, a second Columbus facility for crew training on laboratory systems was developed and delivered to NASA's astronaut training centre in Houston in July 2003. The facility has been 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. EADS Transportation is also responsible for the preparation, performance and control of missions associated with the operation and utilisation of the space station. EADS SPACE Transportation (75%) and Alenia Spazio (25%) will sign a joint venture contract concerning the operation and utilisation of the European part of the International Space Station by the end of the year. Germany will have a 25-35% share in ESA's contribution to the ISS operating phase.
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. In addition to the ISS crewmembers, European astronauts, who came to the space station on so-called taxi flights, carried out a multitude of experiments in the MSG. 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 6.5 tonnes 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 2005.
Bremen, May 2004
Dr. Mathias Spude
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