ATV: "Mini" Earth travels to the International Space Station
Friedrichshafen, 14 February 2011
* Johannes Kepler" to bring cargo and science experiments to the ISS
* Astrium-built container for ESA to investigate flow patterns in the Earth's mantle
Tomorrow, Tuesday 15 February, a "Mini" Earth is scheduled to be launched to the International Space Station (ISS) to gain a better understanding of the processes in the Earth's mantle, which lead to volcanism, plate tectonics and also to earthquakes. The scientific experiment Geoflow II was built by Astrium on behalf of the European Space Agency.
In contrast to Geoflow I that studied flows in the Earth´s Core and its composition, the aim now is to study flow patterns in the Earth’s mantle.
Scientists at the University of Cottbus are simulating a kind of "Mini" Earth installed in an experiment container the size of a shoe box. Following its first ISS mission in 2008, Geoflow’s flight model was modified by Astrium in 2009 and 2010 in order to enable experiments with a different scientific focus to be carried out.
Scientists hope the experiments on the ISS will enable them to improve numerical calculation methods. They will be studying a fluid that is contained between an inner and an outer sphere, each rotating at the same speed and kept at a different temperature. Gravity will be simulated by applying a high voltage electric field, and a camera will photograph the fluid's circulation patterns. All this can only function if the artificial force fields are not distorted by a real gravitational field, which is why the experiment must be carried out under zero-gravity conditions - in other words, in space.
Geoflow II will be launched into space on board the space transporter, the Automated Transfer Vehicle (ATV) 2. The Astrium-built ATV will carry the heaviest payload (20.1 tons) ever launched by the European Ariane 5 rocket.
Astrium, a wholly owned subsidiary of EADS, is dedicated to providing civil and defence space systems and services. In 2009, Astrium had a turnover of €4.8 billion and more than 15,000 employees in France, Germany, the United Kingdom, Spain and theNetherlands. Its three main areas of activity are Astrium Space Transportation for launchers and orbital infrastructure, AstriumSatellites for spacecraft and ground segment, and Astrium Services for comprehensive end-to-end value-added solutions covering secure and commercial satcoms and networks, high security satellite communications equipment, bespoke geoinformation and navigation services worldwide.
EADS is a global leader in aerospace, defence and related services. In 2009, the Group – comprising Airbus, Astrium, Cassidian and Eurocopter – generated revenues of € 42.8 billion and employed a workforce of more than 119,000.
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