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Europe and Piloted Space Missions

The stage was set for ESA's entry into manned spaceflight in December, 1972, with a European commitment to involve ESRO in the US Space Shuttle program and in 1973 with the signing of an agreement with the US to develop the Spacelab scientific facility for the US Space Transportation System. During 1993-1994 two European astronauts representing ESA flew on board US Space Shuttles: one in conjunction with a Spacelab mission and one to service the Hubble Space Telescope. ESA's participation in the International Space Station program will ensure an expanding role for ESA in manned spaceflight activities, despite the cancellations in the Columbus free-flyer and the Hermes spaceplane projects. In addition, ESA is expected to begin the development of a crew transport vehicle and an Automated Transfer Vehicle (ATV) for use in conjunction with the International Space Station.

Spacelab, which had flown on 10 STS missions between 1983 and 1992, completed five more successful flights during 1993-1994: two ATLAS (Atmospheric Lab for Applications and Science), one IML (International Microgravity Laboratory), one SLS (Spacelab Life Sciences) and Spacelab-D2 for Germany. Spacelab is actually a modular system which is custom configured and outfitted for each specialized mission (Figure 3.4). The principal components employed to date are the Long Module habitable pressurized compartment (approximately 8 metric tons, 4 m diameter, and 7 m length), the exposed equipment Pallet (725 kg base mass, 4 m diameter, and 3 m length), and the pressurized equipment Igloo (640 kg base mass, 1.1 m diameter, and 2.4 m height). On manned Spacelab missions the Long Module can be flown with up to two Pallets (only non-Pallet and 1-Pallet missions have been conducted), and on unmanned flights the Long Module is replaced by an Igloo and as many as five Pallets (only 2- and 3- Pallet missions have been conducted). A short Module configuration (length approximately 4.3 m) was part of the original Spacelab design but has not been implemented (Reference 18).

Four ESA astronauts had flown a total of seven orbital missions by the end of 1994. ESA's first astronaut and a veteran of two STS missions, Ulf Merbold, made his third flight under the Euromir 94 mission in 1994 on the Russian Soyuz-TM 20 spacecraft, including a month-long stay on the Mir space station. Wubbo Ockels flew on a STS mission in 1985 and has since retired. ESA's remaining two astronauts were both active in 1993-1994 with Claude Nicollier making his second flight on the Hubble servicing mission (STS-61) and Jean-Francois Clervoy making his first trip into space on STS-66 for the ATLAS 3 Spacelab mission. A Belgian member of ESA's ESTEC, Dirk Frimout, was also a member of the ATLAS 1 Spacelab crew on STS-45 (1992).

Clervoy, formerly a French astronaut trainee, was the first of ESA's 1992 selection class to fly in space (Reference 19). Maurizio Cheli (Italy) is scheduled to be on board STS-75 with Nicollier in 1996, while Thomas Reiter (Germany) was chosen for the second ESA mission to the Mir space station, Euromir 95, in 1995. Three other ESA trainees are still awaiting their assignments: Pedro Duque (Spain), Christer Fuglesang (Sweden), and Maraine Cheli-Merchez (Belgium).

Under the former Freedom Space Station program, ESA had committed to providing the Columbus attached laboratory with a mass of up to 23 metric tons, a length of 12 m, and a diameter of 4.5 m. Following the 1993 redesign of the International Space Station, ESA revamped their proposed contribution to the station, now called the Columbus Orbital Facility (COF), primarily to reduce cost. The module will be shorter than the original design, relying heavily on the Mini Pressurized Logistics Module (MPLM) being produced by Italy for the US. The COF is now expected to have an initial mass of only 10 metric tons with a capacity to support four International Standard Payload Racks (ISPRs) and will be launched by an Ariane 5 booster in 2001. Formal approval for the construction of COF along with details of the final design were expected in 1995 (References 20-27).

While support for the Columbus program wavered during 1993-1994, renewed efforts to create Ariane 5-compatible manned and unmanned transports to service the space station were led by the French. Long-interested in providing an assured crew return vehicle for the space station, ESA initiated a new design effort for a manned spacecraft called the Crew Transport Vehicle or CTV. If developed, the 10-metric-ton CTV could carry a crew of four as well as a small amount of cargo to and from the International Space Station. The test of the Atmospheric Re-entry Demonstrator (ARD) on the second Ariane 5 mission (scheduled for 1996) will set the stage for a possible CTV go-ahead in 1997 with an unmanned maiden flight in 2001. The ARD will have a mass of 2.8 metric tons, a diameter of 2.8 m, and a height of 2.4 m and will be produced by a team led by Aerospatiale (References 21, 28-36).

On a parallel path, ESA has been designing an Automated Transfer Vehicle or ATV for several years. The latest design of the ATV envisions maximizing the use of Ariane 5 hardware to create a simple carrier with both pressurized and unpressurized compartments and a cargo capacity of 10 metric tons or more. A detailed, 18-month definition phase was started in mid-1994. Success with the ATV is expected to encourage an ESA decision to proceed with the CTV (References 21 and 28).

In addition to the Euromir missions of 1994 and 1995, ESA and the Russian Federation explored several areas of potential collaboration during 1993-1994. However, most of these endeavors were associated with the planned Mir 2 space station which was later integrated into the International Space Station program, and consequently most of the efforts have been reoriented or abandoned. ESA and the Russian Federation had begun work on the design of a new EVA suit (EVA Suit 2000) which would be available near the turn of the century for Mir 2 and the now-cancelled Hermes spaceplane. Other activities included modernization of the Soyuz TM and Progress M spacecraft, the development of a space station database management system, and the manufacture of an external robotic arm. The last two concepts remain candidates for the International Space Station (References 21, 37-44).

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Page last modified: 21-07-2011 00:51:06 ZULU